In an open letter to fans, English Football League (EFL) chairman Rick Parry has revealed that current plans are put in place to resume the Championship, League 1 and League 2 behind closed doors with all matches being made available online or on TV.
The plans will commence when the government issues it safe to do so and has refrained from giving a specific date due to the uncertainty of how long COVID-19 will affect the country.
Parry’s letter stated: “When it comes to footballing matters, I understand the desire among fans for definitive answers, particularly around the conclusion of 2019/20 campaign. As I am sure you will appreciate, the situation presents significant operational and financial challenges, including the logistics of clubs returning to full operational status, the practicalities of playing football behind closed doors, and the possible knock-on effects for the 2020/21 campaign. Please be assured that we are working hard on these and will update you as soon as we can once decisions have been made.
“Whilst 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. Plans are continuing to be worked up for all games to be broadcast either via our broadcast partners, iFollow or equivalent club streaming services. We will update you on this once we know when matches will recommence.”
The EFL chairman does eventually feel that fans will be back into the stadiums to watch football, however, precautions are being made to ensure that when that does happen, no fans will be put at risk.
For some clubs, specifically in League 2, a lot of its revenue is garnered through gate receipts and so even if matches can be viewed online and sponsorship contact can be met, those sides will likely still financially struggle.
Parry continued: “The contribution to football’s finances made by match-going supporters should not be underestimated. It is critical to the business model of league football. Perhaps the biggest challenge right now is not knowing when we will be able to reintroduce football in front of crowds. We can only hope that the situation develops in such a way that we will be able to do with the shortest possible break.”
Despite the circumstances, Parry has assured fans that ‘delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions’. Moreover, the chairman also issued that the health and wellbeing of clubs, its players and staff, along with its supporters is the organisation’s main priority.
He concluded: “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. 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.
“One thing we can be sure of is that football, and normality, will return, and will do so more quickly if we remain united. For now, thank you for your ongoing support and, please, stay safe.”