Greg Clarke warns football faces crisis 'beyond wildest imagination'

‘An economic crisis beyond our wildest imagination’: Football gets its most frightening warning yet as FA chairman Greg Clarke says clubs and leagues will collapse… and season could end unfinished

  • The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out the sporting calendar in recent times
  • Football throughout England has been ripped apart by the current outbreak
  • Clubs are desperately seeking ways to keep financially sustainable at present
  • Greg Clarke is fearing an economic crisis ‘beyond our wildest imagination’ 

FA chairman Greg Clarke is fearing massively for the future of football in England after claiming that clubs and leagues could be lost due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The coronavirus crisis has ripped through football at all levels in England with the season suspended indefinitely – with fears the campaign may not be able to be completed.

Premier League sides Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich have placed non-playing staff on furlough while Liverpool eventually reversed their decision to take advantage of the Coronavirus Job retention scheme as clubs desperately look for ways to survive on the financial front.

Greg Clarke is hugely concerned about the future of football amid the coronavirus outbreak

Tottenham placed non-playing staff on furlough while Liverpool backtracked on their decision

When an employee is placed on furlough they are temporarily put on a leave of absence and not paid, although they remain on the payroll, meaning that they do not lose their job.

This could be because there is no work for these employees, or that the company is not able to afford to pay them, because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

In the United Kingdom, the Government is offering to pay 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s wages, up to £2,500 per month, until they are able to resume their job full time. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will last for at least three months from March 1.

Meanwhile on Tuesday afternoon, League One outfit Sunderland placed their first-team players, contracted academy players and backroom staff on furlough.

And in a statement on Tuesday, Clarke urged club’s owners, fans and everyone else associated to ‘share the pain to keep the game alive’ as he admitted his overwhelming fears.

Clarke said: ‘Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it. The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer.

‘We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse. Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection.

‘In the face of this unprecedented adversity, all the stakeholders within the game from players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.

‘Everyone should understand that the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this and whilst they are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base, the potential overall financial impact is huge.’

Sunderland have placed their first-team players, contracted academy players and backroom staff on furlough

The FA chairman went on to admit that a contingency plan needs to be in the pipeline if the current season can’t be completed.

He added: ‘We must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted.

‘We hope we do not need this plan as we are all determined to finish the professional football season, however we would be fools not to develop such a contingency plan. Those that lost their clubs because English football did not rise to the challenge would rightly judge us harshly.

‘Time is pressing as football burns through its cash reserves with no sign yet of a resumption of the game. Pointing fingers serves no purpose.

There are fears the current season might not be completed due to the ongoing pandemic

‘It is time for the stakeholders to agree common cause to save our game. Contribute. Football is a team game and now is the time for teamwork.

‘The FA looks forward to working with all football stakeholders to safeguard the future of our game.’

Clarke finished off by insisting that completing the season remains the sole focus in order to resolve promotion, relegation and title winners.

‘No one knows how long the lockdown will last and what social distancing measures will endure even when the daily rate of infection is much reduced,’ Clarke said. ‘Our Government is rightly cautious as human life is at stake and prudence is our only sensible option. 

‘We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit. However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority, human life is, and we will do as the Government directs as the pandemic unfolds.

‘Further down the football pyramid, our Leagues have requested that the season is curtailed and that decision rests with the FA Council.’ 

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