LONDON: British MPs have called on the Culture Secretary to arrange a bailout of lower-league football clubs or risk “the collapse of the national league structure we have known for over one hundred years.”

Damian Collins, former chair of the Culture Select Committee, has written to Oliver Dowden with a warning that the “government itself needs to take responsibility” for the future of many smaller football sides rather than asking the Premier League to step in.

Clubs in the lower rungs of the football pyramid had expected to be able to welcome fans in to their matches from October, but the move towards more draconian lockdown restrictions in recent weeks has made that unlikely for the foreseeable future.

The Premier League has established a “solidarity fund” for clubs in lower leagues, but many believe that will not be enough to keep some businesses viable.

In the letter, Collins and co-signees including the chairman of Sunderland FC and other parliamentarians in the Commons and Lords, say many clubs outside the Premiership are “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.”

The letter follows calls for the government to develop a specific package for sports clubs similar to the £1.5bn bailout of arts and cultural organisations.

Many clubs in the lower reaches of the football league are more reliant on ticket income, which has dried up, than those in the Premier League.

The delay in welcoming supporters back, Collins warns, means that already struggling clubs are now likely to have to refund season ticket purchasers.