It is unlikely that football matches in England will be staged in front of crowds in the foreseeable future, Greg Clarke has said
Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke admitted fans must realise that they will not be allowed back into stadiums for the foreseeable future when games resume.
The majority of leagues are currently suspended across the world due to restrictions imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic, though several divisions, including the Bundesliga and the Premier League, are keen to resume when it is safe to do so.
However, the logistics of resuming such competitions still need to be ironed out and it appears clear that any matches will be staged behind closed doors, potentially at neutral venues.
Clarke conceded those restrictions will not only be implemented but are set to be the reality for some time.
In a letter sent to the FA Council and republished on the governing body’s website, Clarke wrote: “It is no secret that domestically, a huge amount of work is taking place to assess whether a restart to the English season will be possible.
“Whilst we would all like to see football return in the coming weeks, the health of our communities and the protection of the NHS must remain our priority and we will continue to be led by government advice as we work together with stakeholders from across the game to assess any potential restart.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant financial impact on all sectors of society and sadly football is one of many sports to have been affected as a consequence.
“I want to assure you that we are committed to supporting the game as a whole through this crisis; especially the lower echelons, where the impact has been felt most acutely.
“We remain in contact with colleagues and stakeholders from across both the national and professional game and will continue to work together to offer support as we look to navigate our way through this difficult period.
“So far this has taken a host of different forms from advancing payments due, to giving extensive advisory support, to unlocking money from government and other football stakeholders. We have other ideas in the pipeline such as an initiative with the Football Foundation that we will announce next week.
“Our executive team has been building out different scenarios that we might potentially face as a result of the pandemic. The reality is that we just don’t know how things are going to pan out, but with social distancing in place for some time to come we do face substantial changes to the whole football ecosystem.
“For example, it’s hard to foresee crowds of fans – who are the lifeblood of the game – returning to matches any time soon.”
Clarke added that the FA faced an annual budget cut of £75 million this year and the deficit could reach £300m across four years in “a worst-case scenario”.