Government claim fans will not be back into stadiums until coronavirus cases fall as Oliver Dowden demands EFL is saved
14th October 2020

CULTURE Secretary Oliver Dowden ordered football’s warring factions to come together and save the EFL.

In a clear statement of intent, Dowden told MPs the Government is prepared to intervene and force wholesale change on the game if it cannot sort out its most pressing issues.

Dowden agreed that Gareth Bale’s Tottenham weekly salary was “perverse” when the sum could have kept Macclesfield alive.

He attacked the weekend launch of pay-per-view Prem games and called on BT to make this weekend’s Merseyside derby free to air rather than being screened behind a paywall.

But he revealed he had been “promised” that action would be taken to ensure “no EFL club goes bust” as a result of the Covid crisis. 

And Dowden admitted there were “inconsistencies” in the Government policy that has allowed some indoor venues to open to the public while fans are locked out of football stadiums.

Pressed on his response to Project Big Picture by members of the DCMS Select Committee, Dowden said: “I've made clear my deep scepticism and concern about this.

“This would tend towards a closed shop for effectively the six most powerful clubs in the Premier League.

“More importantly there is a problem which football is perfectly capable of resolving itself, whereby the Premier League and the EFL just need to get together and do this deal. 

“From the conversations I've had we know the EFL clubs will not be allowed to go bust – and there are resources there – but we need a comprehensive deal.

“This is a distraction at best from that and demonstrates we were wise to put in our manifesto the provisions for a fan-led review because it genuinely brings into question the ability of football to govern itself properly.

“Football can show it can govern itself well is to get this deal over the line, where the Premier League uses its wealth to support the wider football family and the EFL comes properly to the negotiating table.”

Dowden insisted the Government was not minded to dig into its own pocket to help keep clubs alive, citing his feeling that it would be wrong “to ask a pensioner in Hartlepool to pay her taxes” to spend on the national game.

The Culture Secretary said he could “accept peoples’ frustration at the inconsistency” in policy over opening up venues.

Dowden said: “I desperately wanted socially distanced fans in stadiums from the start of October but we had to pause that because of the rapidly rising rates of infection.

“It's not just the stadium. it is the journey to and from the stadium both on public transport and people being likely to want something to eat or drink on the way.

“When we get to the point that we have confidence we have the disease under control so that it is not on a rapid upward curve I would rapidly return to this decision.”

Dowden’s repeated reference to the “£1billion spent in the transfer window by Premier League clubs” is unlikely to go down well.

PROPOSED PREMIER LEAGUE CHANGES IN FULL

  • EFL given £250m for loss of matchday revenue – deducted from future TV earnings.
  • Nine longest-serving clubs have 'special status' – with just six votes from those clubs needed to pass a new rule.
  • Premier League to go from 20 clubs to 18.
  • FA awarded £100m gift to help during Covid-19 pandemic to help non-league game, the women’s game and grassroots football.
  • 8.5 per cent of annual net Premier League revenue to go to 'good causes', including the FA.
  • 25 per cent of all combined Premier League and Football League revenues to go to EFL clubs.
  • Six per cent of Premier League gross revenues to pay for stadium improvements across the top four divisions.
  • New rules for the distribution of Premier League television income, overseas and domestic.
  • League Cup and the Community Shield to be axed.
  • 24 clubs each in the Championship, League One and League Two reducing the professional game overall from 92 clubs to 90.
  • A women's professional league independent of the Premier League and FA.
  • Two sides automatically relegated from the Premier League every season and the top two Championship teams promoted.
  • The 16th place Premier League club plays in a play-off tournament with the Championship’s third, fourth and fifth placed teams.
  • Financial Fair Play regulations in line with Uefa, and full access for Premier League executive to club accounts.
  • Away tickets for fans to be capped at £20, with travel subsidised, a focus on a return to safe standing, a minimum away allocation of eight per cent capacity.
  • Later Premier League start in August to give greater scope for pre-season friendlies, and requirement for all clubs to compete once every five years in a summer Premier League tournament.
  • Huge changes to loan system allowing clubs to have 15 players out on loan domestically at any one time and up to four at a single club in England.

*According to The Telegraph

Now will his agreement with committee head Julian Knight that Bale’s wages in the current financial situation were “perverse”, which he described as “an apt observation”.

Further quizzed over the controversial PPV deal, with fans charged £14.95 to watch each of the 15 games over the next three weekends, Dowden said: “I was not massively impressed.

“This goes to the whole concern that people have. These other things jar with the idea of coming together during this period of crisis for the country.

“We had conversations with the broadcasters in the past and will continue to raise these issues with them.

“If BT were able to make this weekend’s game free to air as a gesture it would be a great thing to do of course.”

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