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AFP
October 30, 2020

Lower-league football clubs ‘face extinction’ without rescue package

Sports

AFP
October 30, 2020

MANSFIELD: Football clubs outside the Premier League that are the beating heart of the English game will vanish unless a financial rescue package is agreed imminently.

That is the stark warning from Mansfield Town chief executive David Sharpe, who told AFP a deal was needed within a couple of weeks as clubs struggle to survive in the coronavirus era.

Clubs in League One and League Two this month rejected a £50 million ($65 million) offer from the Premier League, saying the bailout was insufficient and insisting Championship clubs should also be part of any offer.

Sharpe, whose own club is in League Two, the fourth tier of the game, told AFP it was a “brave decision”, taken in solidarity with clubs in the second-tier Championship, who were not included.

Away from the TV-fuelled wealth of the Premier League, clubs are on their knees, deprived for months of their main source of income, with spectators barred due to tough Covid-19 rules.

Sharpe, sitting in the stand that proudly proclaims Field Mill as “the oldest professional football ground in the world”, said he does not expect to see fans return until next season, adding to the sense of urgency.

His fear is that when the offer comes back it could be the same figure again, on a take-it-or leave it basis, and clubs rooted in their communities for generations will go to the wall.

“There would be a huge price to pay for the image of the English game,” he said.

“We’re hopeful, though, the Premier League will agree something with the EFL (English Football League, which covers 72 clubs) in the not-too-distant future and I am sure the government will be involved.

“But it has to be soon. It can’t be another month of waiting. It has to be within the next week or two.

Sharpe said a failure to agree a viable deal would hit clubs quickly.