Published: 09:00, 22 July 2020
| Updated: 09:57, 22 July 2020
Gillingham’s League 1 rivals have proposed starting the EFL season now in October.
Shrewsbury Town have put forward the idea in light of the government’s announcement last week that supporters wouldn’t be allowed back into stadiums until the autumn, at the earliest, following pilot trials.
Gills chairman Paul Scally has said they can’t afford to play without supporters unless funding is provided. The EFL are currently working on several potential packages that could help.
Clubs had been voting on a couple of potential start dates, including September 12, but no announcement has yet been made.
The Gills won’t offer new deals or commit to a training restart date before they know when the new season will begin and what financial packages are to be put in place, if any. It's cost them a couple of players, with out of contract players Max Ehmer and Regan Charles-Cook both signing elsewhere.
Mr Scally has said it will cost his club £60,000 per fixture to stage games in the current situation and even when stadiums do open, there will be tight restrictions on capacity.
The Sports Ground Safety Authority have issued guidelines over how clubs can manage social distancing in stadiums and have said “the number of spectators that can be accommodated will be considerably lower than the final capacity under standard operational conditions.”
It will be down to each club to determine how many fans can attend, dependent on restrictions in place at the time. The management of concourses, circulation routes, entry and exit points and local infection rates will all determine a ground capacity.
It’s further complicated by whether fans attend as a social bubble - up to six people from two households - or individually.
For the Gills, who can’t rely on TV income or a rich benefactor, the fans are all-important.
“If we don’t have any income it won’t take us very long before we run out of cash,” said the Gills chairman in a Radio Kent interview this week.
“Generally every club wants to play football, that is what we are in the business for of course, but not at the cost of finishing off the business.
“We are not ready to start playing football yet, we can only play football on the basis that we have income.”
Those comments echo those of the Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter, who has also said his club can’t afford to play without spectators.
Shrewsbury Town's proposal also suggests League Cup and Football League Trophy matches are played ahead of the commencement of the league season in October. Those games traditionally attract low crowds anyway, so won’t affect clubs drastically. For some, they could be used as pre-season fixtures.
It could mean competitive football still starting in September.