Coronavirus Outbreak: England's lower-league football clubs face uncertain times, could go bankrupt without ticket sales

Andy Holt, the chairman of League One club Accrington Stanley, said on Tuesday that clubs could go out of business if they are forced to play without match-day revenue

Reuters April 28, 2020 20:52:56 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: England's lower-league football clubs face uncertain times, could go bankrupt without ticket sales

Manchester: Spiralling wages in the Football League combined with the damaging impact of the long break in play due to the new coronavirus pandemic are prompting fears that English clubs outside of the Premier League could go to the wall.

While Premier League clubs hope that a restart in June, albeit behind closed doors, will secure their continued lucrative television revenues, the prospect of playing without fans is a major concern for lower league clubs who receive only a fraction of the broadcast cash.

Andy Holt, the chairman of League One club Accrington Stanley, said on Tuesday that clubs could go out of business if they are forced to play without match-day revenue.

“I want to know how we fund the behind-closed-doors end to this season, also how we operate next season if crowds are still not allowed?

“There’s no point even trying for some clubs. It does not work. No point wasting cash now, only to go bust later,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Many clubs go bust if next season is behind closed doors and many will go bust paying players wages if next season doesn’t start. The ELF is doing nothing to allay my fears. They’re hanging around waiting for pre (Premier League) before moving.”

Holt’s warning came after the leak of an internal ELF questionnaire on wages which showed the scale of the expenditure problem in the second-tier Championship, where clubs vie for promotion to the Premier League.

For several years, overall spending on player and staff wages in the Championship has exceeded revenue, and the questionnaire, reported by the Daily Mail on Tuesday, showed that of the 18 Championship clubs who responded, the average basic monthly pay for their highest earner is 1.51 million pounds ($1.9 million) a year, which makes a monthly salary of 125,797 pounds.

The best-paid player in the report earned an annual salary of 3.54 million pounds, or 294,666 pounds a month. The figures from the 2019-20 season do not include win bonuses or other payments.

The ELF declined to comment on the report.

In League One, where 15 of the 24 clubs responded, the average highest earner is on 247,188 pounds a year and in League Two, where 14 responded, it is 114,020 pounds.

However, one player is paid 13,000 pounds for a year in the Championship, and two in Leagues One and Two received just 7,800 pounds.

The highest-paid Championship manager was reportedly paid 3.46 million pounds a year, with an average across the division of 878,000 pounds a year.

In League Two, the average manager’s annual income is 79,462 pounds, with the lowest-paid manager in the Football League receiving 45,000.

One physiotherapist at a Championship side in the Midlands was earning 191,000 pounds a year, although that was almost three times the league average. At one Championship club, the kit man earned 56,000 pounds a year.

The average salary for a chief executive or managing director in the Championship was 295,179 pounds, with one CEO picking up 740,000. In League One, that average fell to 89,566 pounds.

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