End of furlough scheme will cause EFL clubs more problems – Rotherham chairman

Tony Stewart
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart has warned EFL clubs’ survival fight will get harder when the Government’s furlough scheme ends this week.

The furlough programme finishes on October 31 and is being replaced with a new Job Support Scheme, which will allow businesses to retain employees on shorter hours for the following six months.

Stewart told the PA news agency: “There’s a bit of help for those drowning, but for the rest of us running as tight as we can, if we’re not careful our ship will hit the rocks.

“The water is getting shallower and shallower as we sail forward and stopping the furlough is another instance where we’re going to be having problems.”

EFL clubs have rejected the Premier League’s proposed £50million rescue package for Sky Bet League One and League Two clubs.

Rotherham have lost out on £1.5million revenue, says chairman Tony Stewart

Rotherham have lost out on £1.5million revenue, says chairman Tony Stewart (Nigel French)

A loans and grants package for clubs in the bottom two divisions was put forward at a Premier League shareholders’ meeting earlier this month after Project Big Picture was dismissed.

“Lack of funding is due to many reasons, it’s not just the furlough,” Stewart said. “We haven’t got crowds coming in, we’re not selling programmes, we haven’t got hospitality, lack of sponsorship and we’re still putting the show on.

“We’ve got all the costs associated with running a football club, but we’ve no revenue and the furlough is another instance where we’re being starved of all areas of funding.”

Stewart said the Millers had lost out on £1.5m revenue since football was suspended in March and those losses will rise to £2m by January.

“The EFL are putting out this SOS funding, so does that mean that any club which has serious cash-flow problems can dip into the reservoir to stop them going into administration?” he said.

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“Before Christmas more and more clubs will be relying on this rescue fund – and is that limited? How big are their resources? It’s not bottomless and that’s the problem.”

Stewart feels the biggest issue is getting fans safely back into stadiums and that EFL clubs were not being informed of any progress in talks between the Government and football’s authorities.

“We’re not getting told anything,” he added. “I talk to other chairmen regularly and as much as people are saying they’re doing what they can do, nothing is forthcoming. It’s ridiculous.”

Harrogate managing director Garry Plant says “one club disappearing is one too many”.

Plant added: “The furlough period comes to an end in a few days and it played a critical part of the Job Retention Scheme without which many businesses would have fallen into administration.

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“Many tens of thousands of jobs were saved and now we have to see, post-furlough, how employment is affected.

“Like every professional club across England we have no crowds, no income from gate receipts and a reduced commercial income from sponsorship, advertising and events.

“The EFL has estimated that a lifeline package in the region of £250million is required to save the football pyramid and the members therein.

“Communities will lose their football clubs that span back over generations, gone never to be enjoyed again by generations to come.

“No more scarves when Saturday comes, the last chapter in football memories. How many clubs will stumble, we shall see, but one club disappearing is one too many.”

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