Rick Parry, the EFL chair, has warned football will have to return behind closed doors to survive its biggest challenge outside of two world wars.
In an open letter Parry told supporters that progress has been made on player wage cuts and deferrals and the English Football League’s intention remains to complete the season. To do so matches will almost certainly be played without crowds, although plans are underway to broadcast all games live.
“Unfortunately I cannot tell you when football will resume, though whenever we do return, matches are likely to be played without crowds,” Parry wrote in an open letter to mark the 132nd anniversary of the Football League’s foundation.
“While we are unfortunately without the presence of the hundreds of thousands of supporters who pass through EFL turnstiles each week, we will endeavour to bring live football direct into your homes once it returns,” he added.
“Plans are continuing to be worked up for all games to be broadcast either via our partners iFollow, or equivalent club streaming services. We will update you on this once we know when matches will recommence.
“With or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019-20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions. This means that a number of factors – including when, where and within what time frame fixtures will be played – must be given careful consideration in line with government advice.
“Similar factors must also be taken into account when agreeing an approach towards player training and testing, not least the appropriate level of medical resource and creation of an effective and efficient medical matchday protocol.”
Clubs throughout the EFL are facing serious financial problems. Five weeks on from the suspension of football there is still no agreement between clubs and players on wage cuts or deferrals but Parry indicateda deal is close.
“Aside from two catastrophic world wars, this pandemic is arguably the most challenging issue to have affected football since the League was founded 132 years ago,” the EFL chair said. “Our clubs have been left with significant outgoings while facing a sudden loss of income.
“With this in mind, I’m sure you will be aware of talk about wages and deferrals. Good progress is being made in these areas with a view to this assisting in delivering medium to long-term solutions that protect our game for years to come.”
The former Premier League and Liverpool chief executive also insisted the game must “tread extremely carefully” with its public image when football does resume.
Speaking on Sky to Gary Neville, who asked whether it was right some clubs could go bankrupt because of the crisis while others spend £100m on one player, Parry said the game had to act responsibly. “We are in the court of public opinion now as the Premier League has seen in recent weeks fairly graphically,” he replied.
“We have seen the negative response to furloughing, which I think has been grossly exaggerated given the scheme is to apply to every company. Football has to be hugely conscious of its public image at the moment and we have to tread extremely carefully.
“ I think the question you raise is a really, really valid one. This is a time when football has to be increasingly careful and making sure we are doing all we can to do the right thing.”