English Premier League clubs will meet on Tuesday in an emergency session to discuss the extraordinary circumstances of the current season now that the Government has effectively ruled out any fans attending matches until March.
The special shareholders’ meeting is necessary because of the number of pressing issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s new restrictions.
There is huge frustration at a number of Premier League clubs that the government is expecting them to bail out the English Football League to the tune of £250million at the same time as imposing restrictions on fans which mean all clubs are expected to make huge losses this season.
Whilst the Premier League is extremely mindful of the tightrope the Government has to walk and that safety is paramount, it is felt that the decision to ban fans, announced by senior cabinet member Michael Gove, isn’t based on science but on political expediency in that it would look bad even if there is minimal risk.
One source, according to Daily Mail, pointed out that government spoke of stadia ‘thronged with crowds’ while test events have shown that is far from the reality.
It suggested that senior politicians hadn’t studied data from or engaged with the reporting from the test events.
Most clubs have space to provide for rigid social distancing and experienced stewards to enforce it.
Clubs also have a complete record of attendees for track and trace, while many pubs and restaurants aren’t taking customers’ details because it is impractical yet have been allowed to stay open.
Whilst an EFL bailout will be on the agenda on Tuesday, it is unlikely to be agreed until there is more clarity from the Government.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said on Saturday: ‘I think the PL and EFL have been discussing it [National League bailout]. It is difficult for PL clubs, but the biggest concern is down the pyramid. It is something that the PL and EFL need to address.
‘But we have to invest and spend in players to generate the TV interest. We have to make sure our business survives and the pyramid survives too. It is not long ago that Brighton were in that lower level.
‘One way is to try and bring fans back, that would allow us to stand on our own two feet. We held a test event and there was no risk, and there are other totally unregulated events that are allowed to occur.
‘We are going to appeal to the Government to allow football clubs to run their businesses.’
Financial expert Kieran Maguire has calculated what the losses of PL clubs would have been in 2018-19 without matchday income. Chelsea would have lost £202m, Everton £131m and Arsenal £124m and only two clubs would have made a profit.
France, with a higher coronavirus infection rate, has fans back as do Germany, Holland and Belgium.
Informed sources across the talks between sport and the Government think it is unlikely there will be any fans back until March and even then it is likely to be only 20-30 per cent of capacity.