Football suspension ‘very worrying’ for clubs – Rochdale CEO
Cancelling the season because of the coronavirus outbreak could be “disastrous” for some English Football League clubs’ finances, says Rochdale chief executive David Bottomley.
EFL matches have been suspended until 3 April at the earliest.
But there are fears that fixtures may not be able to be fulfilled.
“It’s very worrying for any industry that relies on people paying to come and watch it for the majority of its income,” said Bottomley.
Rochdale have twice been drawn against Premier League opposition in cup competitions this season and also sold teenager Luke Matheson to Wolves for a substantial fee in January.
Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Bottomley said: “We’re looking at a big impact on our finances in March. We’re fortunate as a club that, because of things that have happened recently like the sale of a player, we can afford to get through the next few days without playing three games of football.
“But we need that income at some stage.
“If they cancelled the season and said ‘no more football’ that would have a disastrous effect on our finances because we have got six more [home] games to come.
“I would fear for a lot of clubs who are probably living very hand-to-mouth and rely on gate receipts.”
Six of Rochdale’s 10 remaining League One games this season are home fixtures
Before confirmation from the Premier League and EFL that elite football would be postponed for the foreseeable future, Portsmouth chief executive Mark Catlin warned that a lack of gate receipts could be “devastating” for some clubs.
Bottomley said lots of clubs would now be consulting the EFL because they were unable to access business interruption insurance.
“I have a lot of sympathy with the EFL because they are reacting to the situation with information from the government and on a worldwide basis, and every few hours we are getting updates,” he added.
“The EFL is probably being bombarded with emails from 71 clubs asking how much money they have in reserve and ‘what are you going to do to compensate clubs?’
“At the same time, the EFL is probably bombarding the sports minister.”
Tranmere Rovers owner Mark Palios has said the Premier League and government should offer support to EFL clubs who face hardship because of coronavirus.
He also believes the EFL could support a process where clubs could go into administration to help their finances but not suffer points penalties.
League One Bolton began the season with a 12-point deduction after going into administration, but last season Blackpool avoided a points penalty despite going into receivership.
That came after an owner dispute, and subsequent court case, rather than financial mismanagement specifically.
Palios said: “Having been an insolvency practitioner, you could use the administration process, which was brought in to help businesses survive, in a slightly different way.
“If coronavirus tips clubs over the edge, there’s an argument that this isn’t because of financial mismanagement, it’s because of circumstances, and therefore you could go into administration to get the benefits of protection but not take the sporting sanctions. That is something I would recommend.”
People’s health ‘has to take the absolute priority’
The vast majority of EFL clubs released statements on Friday supporting the announcement to postpone matches in the top four divisions.
Danny Macklin, chief executive at League Two side Leyton Orient, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s 100% the right decision.
“The health of every football fan, players, staff and everyone associated with each football club clearly has to take the absolute priority.
“I’m hugely concerned it could have an impact on many clubs. We’re very fortunate that we have a very experienced board and management team.
“That’s not to say it’s easier for us than any other club, but we will be thinking radically and using that experience in a very difficult environment to try to make the best of this that we can.”
However, Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling believes there were “alternatives” to cancelling matches altogether and said the next few weeks will be “really tough on clubs and other businesses”.
He told BBC Essex: “With the Premier League, I think it will only affect two games for them, but for us at Colchester it’s at least four and maybe five games.
“I think there were alternatives. Games could at least have been played behind closed doors initially. We’ve got a fantastic streaming device in the EFL which allows people to log in and watch games and we could have made those available free to our season-ticket holders and sold them to other fans.
“I’m surprised this decision was made because it seems to go against the advice from the government that we carry on as normal. I’m a bit disappointed and surprised, but there may be some stuff that I’m not aware of that justifies the decision.”
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