The Premier League has agreed a £250m rescue package for lower league football clubs struggling to survive a coronavirus-induced crisis, with spectators having been unable to attend stadiums for most of the year.
Football’s top tier reached the agreement on Thursday with the English Football League, the body that runs the three professional divisions below. They had come under pressure from the UK government to agree a deal after being excluded from a £300m taxpayer bailout of other sports, such as rugby union and horseracing.
Under the deal’s terms, clubs in the Championship, the tier below the Premier League, will be able to tap a £200m interest-free loan facility to cover liabilities until June next year.
Meanwhile, £50m in grants will be available for teams in League One and Two, the bottom divisions, to cover revenue shortfalls created by the lack of fans. Of these grants, £30m will be paid out to all 48 clubs with the remainder available through monitored applications.
“The Premier League is a huge supporter of the football pyramid and is well aware of the important role clubs play in their communities,” said Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive. “Our commitment is that no EFL club need go out of business due to Covid-19.”
“With a £250m support package for men’s elite football and £300m government funding for women’s football, the National League and other major spectator sports, we have fuel in the tank to get clubs and sports through this,” said Oliver Dowden, culture secretary.
This week’s football fixtures are the first since England’s national lockdown was replaced by a system of regional restrictions this month, and a limited number of fans will return to stadiums for the first time since March.
Clubs in “tier one” locations will be able to welcome up to a maximum of 4,000 fans or 50 per cent of stadium capacity — whichever is lower. In tier two, the cap is set at 2,000 supporters or 50 per cent of stadium capacity. In tier three locations, sports will continue to be held “behind closed doors”.
The Premier League has said it faces a £540m shortfall in match revenues this season, even with a partial reopening of stadiums. However, lower division teams, which are more reliant on match-day takings, were at stronger risk of going bust due to the restrictions on spectator numbers.
“Our overarching aim throughout this process has been to ensure that all EFL clubs survive the financial impact of the pandemic,” said Rick Parry, EFL’s chair. “I am pleased that we have now reached a resolution on behalf of our clubs and, as we have maintained throughout, this will provide much needed support and clarity following months of uncertainty.”
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