LONDON: Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has warned that English football faces “the danger of losing clubs and leagues” amid economic challenges “beyond the wildest imagination” because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The season has been halted indefinitely with some clubs placed non-playing staff on temporary leave – known as furlough – while talks continue over player pay cuts.
Clarke told an FA Council video meeting: “Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection.
“In the face of this unprecedented adversity, all the stakeholders within the game from players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.
“It is time for the stakeholders to agree common cause to save our game. Contribute. Football is a team game and now is the time for teamwork.
Clarke said: “We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit.
“However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority – human life is – and we will do as the government directs as the pandemic unfolds.
“Further down the football pyramid, our leagues have requested that the season is curtailed and that decision rests with the FA Council. The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer.
“We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse.”
The Premier League has proposed a 30pc pay cut for players which has been resisted thus far by the Professional Footballers’ Association. Top-flight players are set to start negotiations on a club-by-club basis over talks broke down.
Football League clubs are struggling with cashflow issues without ticket sales, as well as matchday and merchandise income.
On Monday, England men’s manager Gareth Southgate and women’s boss Phil Neville said they would take a 30pc pay cut.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the financial impact of postponements, including England fixtures, FA Cup matches and Wembley events could be as high as £150m.
National League chairman and former FA chief executive Brian Barwick said: “We have 68 clubs across our three divisions and we are concerned about making sure that when we come through this we have 68 left.
“It is going to be tough and tight, so any opportunities that the government give us, or the wider sporting industry gives, or football gives us, we have to take heed of and do the right thing.
“Our clubs range from professional to semi-professional and, in truth, they are absolutely fundamental to the communities they are in.
“The game will have to change and there will be better brains than me to work that out – but the starting point for us is to protect our clubs, our league, while fitting inside the football family.
“The FA chairman spoke strong words but the FA has been working with us to protect our clubs and try to make sure we have three divisions at the end of it.”