EFL chief Rick Parry in urgent plea to government for furlough scheme help as Premier League bailout nears

Chairman requests furlough aid for EFL clubs while fans remain absent to make up lost matchday revenue to ensure all 72 side continue to exist beyond the current financial crisis

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Tuesday 10 November 2020 17:54 GMT
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Premier League rejects Project Big Picture

English Football League chairman Rick Parry is optimistic a financial bailout deal can be agreed with the Premier League before the end of the month to safe the 10 clubs who cannot afford to pay their November wages, but issued a plea on the government to consider extending the furlough scheme to include the sport while fans cannot attend matches.

The appearance of Parry and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters before a Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee saw the pair grilled on why it has taken more than six months to agree a deal that will see the top flight share its financial wealth with the lower professional leagues, following the coronavirus pandemic.

Masters reiterated that the Premier League will not allow any club to go out of business because of reasons related to the pandemic, with an offer on the table that will see £50m given in grants and loans to clubs across League One and League Two plus a case-by-case provision for Championship sides to apply for financial aid.

Aware that the DCMS was unimpressed with the failure to agree a deal previously, Masters and Parry presented a united front to stress the path was clear for a resolution in the discussions, which will be music to the ears of club owners and executives who are desperate for a bailout before the end of the month, with an EFL meeting set to take place on Thursday.

“We would very much like to come to a deal with the Premier League,” Parry said. “It was our League One and League Two clubs who said in a sign of solidarity they did not want to abandon the Championship and wanted to do a deal as the EFL as a whole. I think we can move forwards on that basis.

“Now we have a commitment that the Championship is going to be embraced we can move forwards with that. We have club meetings this week.

“There’s no guarantee of that but we’re committed to resolving it speedily, Richard has said that too, so where there’s a will hopefully there’s a way.”

But even though a rescue package is expected to arrive sooner rather than later - with the DCMS demanding weekly updates on progress in negotiations are progressing that will be relayed to the public - Parry issued an plea to the government to consider making a provision for clubs to utilise the furlough scheme while staff remain in their every day jobs.

The government’s decision to scrap the planned return of fans from 1 October has left all clubs without any matchday revenue, and until it returns post-lockdown, Parry believes financial support that has been afforded to the rest of the nation on top of a suspension of employment tax would help keep all 72 clubs in existence.

“Very simply put it’s the government that’s prevented us from earning,” he explained. “Clearly the priority for us this season was the return to crowds. We had the expectation of returning to crowds in early October.

Parry believes the government can help EFL clubs facing financial peril
Parry believes the government can help EFL clubs facing financial peril (PA)

“We absolutely get that currently with the lockdown that’s clearly not tenable. But our greatest ask when we come out of lockdown is that at least we have a roadmap for a return to crowds. A great deal of planning had gone on, we believe we had a very good case and had very successful pilots. We believe we could have had reduced capacities with great safety and satisfactory to the fans.

“We believe there were all sorts of inconsistencies where fans could watch games in cinemas, in pubs which we think are far more dangerous than a well-regulated, well-managed environment.

“And we believe there’s a collective responsibility that the Premier League also has challenges, it’s losing money and doesn’t have crowds returning, and we do believe there’s things the government can do to help us.

“We’re not asking the government to write enormous cheques. But two examples: one is at a stroke we’ve seen furlough extended until the end of March. Many of our clubs benefitted from furlough during the previous lockdown.

“The thing that puzzles us, given how clubs are playing without any income with no crowds and incurring all the costs of their employees, why could they not access the furlough scheme while they continue to play. What is the underlying logic that says you can only access furlough if your employees are not working? Surely it’s actually better to have them gainfully employed and at least trying to provide some entertainment for people.

“The other area we’ve been looking for relief on is employment taxes. Our clubs benefitted from deferrals during the last lockdown. One of the byproducts of our extraordinary wage bill - 107 per cent of turnover spent on wages in the Championship - is that employment tax across our clubs is £32.5m per month, 40 per cent of turnover which is probably the highest ratio of any industry.

“So our ask is is there any scope for a holiday on employment taxes during the period when through no fault of our own we’re playing, doing our bit for communities and not making any income.”

Parry also revealed that any financial package will be distributed on a pro-rota basis relative to what each of the 72 EFL clubs have lost in matchday revenue. He added: “The specifics of the £250m that we’ve been talking about since May is based on lost gate receipts. If we had the £250m we would distribute them based on lost gate receipts. It would be a very simple mechanism.”

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