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Kent MP Damian Collins warns that football could collapse without government support

A Kent MP believes that the country’s football league structure could collapse without government intervention.

Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins, along with others, has written to culture secretary Oliver Dowden and minister for sport Nigel Huddleston to make a case for a Covid-19 'cultural recovery fund’ for football.

Kent MP Damian Collins calls for govenment support to help save football in the lower leagues (42450168)
Kent MP Damian Collins calls for govenment support to help save football in the lower leagues (42450168)

Football is facing a bleak future without crowds, with both Gillingham owner Paul Scally and Dover chairman Jim Parmenter among those to speak publicly about the problems facing their clubs.

EFL clubs in League 1 and 2 voted against playing the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign behind closed doors but got the new campaign underway with hopes of fans turning out to support them in October. The National League delayed the start of their league to coincide with an expected return on fans.

The government’s decision to tighten restrictions amid a second wave of Covid-19, however, means plans to open the gates back up at elite-level clubs have been scrapped for now , and that could last for six months.

Without much-needed revenue from supporters, clubs are now desperately seeking financial support to keep them going.

Sunderland co-owner Charlie Methven, the former chairman of the FA, David Triesman and the vice president of the National League, Lord Faulkner also put their name to a letter that calls on the government to act now, before it’s too late.

As a consequence of the current fan lockout, the letter says “clubs will not only lose this budgeted income, but will also have to refund season tickets to fans who will now be prevented from attending matches.”

Gillingham have been among those calling on the Premier League to help with a bailout but Mr Collins believes it’s the government who should take the burden.

The letter continued: “It’s clear that the government has no current proposals to provide financial support, and nor is it prepared to offer any guarantees for the future.

“Without any plans being made to rescue football clubs, many in the EFL and others in the National League as well, are now actively preparing to make all but essential staff redundant, cease playing, close down their youth academies and community foundations, and put their business into administration.

“This could lead not only to the failure of many historic community clubs but the collapse of our national league structure that we have known for over one hundred years. These are decisions that will be made in the coming weeks, with many clubs unable to meet their payroll obligations for next month.

“There is still time to act but not long left. The government made £1.5billion available to rescue the arts and cultural organisations across the country that faced closure because of the coronavirus. We believe that football, like other well-loved professional sports in this country, is also a cultural activity.

“We would ask that the government now make clear what financial support it’s prepared to give before it is too late.

“It cannot be the Premier League’s sole responsibility to sort out issues arising from government policy. The government itself needs to take responsibility or many already-embattled towns - often in areas of the country which have suffered any hardships in recent decades - will lose their last focal point.”

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