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Struggling EFL clubs urged to act as ‘collective’ in fight for financial aid

SaveOurClubs campaign
(Image credit: Kirsty O’Connor)

An EFL board member has warned it would be “catastrophic” for the competition if a club broke ranks and went direct to the Premier League for financial help.

Fleetwood chief executive Steve Curwood is part of the ‘Save Our Clubs’ campaign which is calling on the Government to help EFL teams badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The EFL has already rejected a bailout offer from the Premier League which amounted to £50million in grants and loans, but the top flight said the offer would remain on the table and that it would engage with any club which could prove financial hardship as a result of Covid.

Curwood says a number of clubs are close to going to the wall, but said it was vital that the collective held together.

“Yes (the £20million of Premier League grants) would help some League One and League Two clubs, but we’re a collective,” he told the PA news agency.

“The broadcasting deal which we have with Sky is predominantly created because of the acknowledgement that the Championship is our main product.

“For League One and Two clubs to split and make arrangements separately, even in the short term, would be catastrophic. It is a collective position that we need to adopt and we need to be coming together to determine what is required.”

Curwood said the Premier League had now offered an additional £30million emergency loan facility to Championship clubs, which will be considered at an EFL board meeting on Thursday.

But he said the overall package from the Premier League “barely touched the sides” of what was required, and insisted the ball was now firmly in the Government’s court.

He questioned the level of enthusiasm for football among the Government’s decision-makers, and warned the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, would be remembered among football fans for all the wrong reasons if he did not act.

“The Government has got to stop thinking that the Premier League will resolve this and waiting for something to happen, they just need to treat this more urgently,” Curwood said.

“They don’t understand the critical parts these clubs play in their communities because none of the Cabinet – and this is a quirk of timing – are football supporters.

“That isn’t helpful to us because they don’t understand the industry and what it does for its communities.

“They see us as an irritation, Marcus Rashford as an irritation, they don’t appreciate fundamentally what these clubs do.

The Premier League, and its chief executive Richard Masters, have offered financial support to the EFL

The Premier League, and its chief executive Richard Masters, have offered financial support to the EFL (Mike Egerton/PA)

“While they wait and dither, and wait for the Premier League to do more than they are presently able to do, football clubs will die.”

He added: “The football paying public, a negligible percentage of them, will have heard of Oliver Dowden, but Oliver Dowden will be a well-known name in this country if clubs start to go bust, which is going to happen very quickly.”

Dowden, and sports minister Nigel Huddleston, are adamant that the Premier League must be responsible for supporting the EFL financially through the pandemic.

“There is no way on this planet that wherever this arrangement gets to with the Premier League that it will be anywhere near enough,” Curwood warned.

“The only people who can stop clubs from going to the wall is the Government, and in the same way they have acknowledged that cultural institutions such as the arts are under threat of going to the wall, the exact same threat applies to EFL clubs.”