The culture secretary Oliver Dowden has called for the Premier League to “step up to the plate” and provide financial support for EFL clubs through the coronavirus crisis.
The EFL has said its clubs stand to lose £200m this season if supporters are unable to attend matches, having already lost £50m last season. There are fears that without crowds some Football League clubs will disappear.
“We stand ready to support clubs because they are such an important part of our local community,” Dowden told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge. “The first thing we need to look to is the Premier League and I’ve been in contact with them this week.
“We are all agreed the Premier League needs to step up to the plate and they’re having intensive discussions with the EFL over how they can support those clubs. I have been speaking with the Premier League and I was very clear that we expect [them] to support the EFL.”
In a separate interview with Andrew Marr on BBC One, Dowden said: “The Premier League are working closely with the EFL to see how they can support them. They are having productive conversations and I am hopeful they will reach a deal this week.”
Governing bodies across a range of sports have spoken out since the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Tuesday that the planned reintroduction of spectators to sports venues from 1 October had been scrapped due to fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Dowden said the Premier League will meet on Tuesday to discuss the way forward now that the government has effectively ruled out any fans attending matches until March.
“The direction is clear, we understand the Premier League needs to play its part. I’m in close consulation with them and I’m hopeful they will be able to reach a deal and provide that level of support.”
Asked if crowds would return by the end of the season, Dowden replied: “I would desperately love that to happen and we keep the situation under constant review. We are also investigating the use of new technology, working with the clubs who have done a fantastic job until now.
“If it’s all possible of course I would like it to happen, but in this rapidly moving situation with the virus, we just need to exercise a little bit of caution which is what we’ve done in relation to 1 October,” Dowden added.
“Most people would agree against this backdrop of rapidly rising cases now is not the time to bring back crowds.”