The EFL is expecting to receive funding from government to help avert immediate catastrophe in English football.
The money will not be enough to keep clubs afloat for the season but will at least assist in keeping them alive in the short term. What happens after that remains unclear despite negotiations, also involving the Premier League, all summer.
With sport’s Covid crisis having stepped up another notch following the abandonment of plans to return fans to stadiums, governing bodies are waiting with bated breath to hear the contents of a financial rescue package the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is beginning to put together.
That money is likely to come in the form of grants or long-term loans and football is in the queue, with even the Premier League hoping for some form of support from government. The crisis for the lower leagues is more imminent, however, after a weekend of successful pilots that welcomed fans back to grounds turned into a mirage.
For months the EFL has predicted losses of up to £250m for its 72 clubs and those projections look likely to become reality with an acceptance even pilot matches are unlikely to return before the spring.
Speaking on Wednesday the EFL chairman, Rick Parry, expressed disappointment at the curtailment of the pilot programme.
“Following the successful return of supporters to seven fixtures on Saturday, the EFL is disappointed at yesterday’s decision to suspend plans for the return of fans to matches,” he said in a statement.
“Therefore we are deeply frustrated that we will not be able to continue this work and, in doing so, gather the evidence to show that crowds can return safely to football and become an important financial lifeline for our clubs. Therefore, as a matter of urgency we now need to understand what the government’s roadmap is for getting supporters back into stadiums as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
“I am encouraged that the government has recognised the need for urgent financial assistance for sport and discussions will continue with DCMS and the Premier League.
“We remain optimistic that a solution will be found but we should also be very clear that if it is not, then the outlook for many clubs in the period ahead will be very challenging.”
The EFL is also looking for financial support from the Premier League and believes it should expect it, after government made support for the football pyramid part of the conditions for restarting elite football in June.
The Premier League, meanwhile, continues to point to its own losses – estimated at about £80m a month without fans in grounds – and says it already does its bit to support the game.
Despite nudges and public calls for the Premier League to act – the latest coming from Chelsea’s manager, Frank Lampard – the position of the top flight has not changed.
It is understood that it will require direction from government for that position to shift and so far that push has not been forthcoming. On Tuesday the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, is believed to have told sporting organisations fearful of their prospects for survival that “Boris gets it”.