The former England and West Ham striker believes football must unite to stop teams going out of business amid the coronavirus shutdown
The Premier League must offer support to make sure as many Football League clubs as possible survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to former England striker Dean Ashton.
With football currently shut down and no money coming in from gate receipts, there is a fear that a significant number of clubs could go out of business due to expensive wage bills and outstanding transfer payments.
Government furloughing schemes are being widely used to help stem the crisis, but with the possibility of crowds returning seemingly a long way off there are major concerns over the sustainability of some clubs.
Ashton, who played in the second and third tier with Crewe Alexandra before starring in the Premier League with Norwich City and West Ham, says the whole pyramid must work together.
“Many clubs are working right on the edge,” he told Goal . “It is a real worry to see whether the clubs can cope depending on how long this carries on for and, when we do eventually come out of it, what our football pyramid looks like.
“It’s down to everybody to try pull together, including the Premier League, to make sure we still have our pyramid football in England.
“It would be naive to think the Premier League doesn’t benefit from the Football League, in terms of players that come through, in terms of football clubs that come on. The EFL plays a massive part in how competitive the Premier League has become, which is why it’s one of the best in the world.”
Despite that, Ashton also says Football League clubs must change the way they spend money and has urged the introduction of a salary cap.
The idea is set to be discussed by clubs with some spending more than 100 per cent of their income on wages in an attempt to get promoted higher up the pyramid.
“We’ve known it for a long time, but the amount of money that clubs spend on wages seems ridiculous when you compare it to the percentage of everything else they spend,” Ashton added. “That is the biggest gamble – getting players in for money that they don’t have or stretching themselves with wages.
“I have felt for a long time there should be some sort of salary cap because I don’t see how football clubs will survive if wages just keep going up and up.”
With a date for the return of football still unknown, the chances of completing the current campaign are receding, and there is a debate as to how that will impact on promotion and relegation.
The majority of non-league competitions have already decided to void the season, but Ashton believes the season should be completed. Furthermore, he feels that football should wait for fans to return to the stadiums rather than playing fixtures behind closed doors.
“We’ve gone too far with this season for it to be voided,” he said. “Teams have got themselves into positions that are still too close to call so I can’t see how it can be voided and be fair to everyone.”
On games behind closed doors, he added: “The game is very much about the supporters – that’s one thing that’s really comes to my mind since I’ve retired.
“When you play, you think it’s all about you as players and clubs, when you actually take away the supporters, players don’t enjoy it.
“It is about the supporters. It’s an entertainment business once you get to the really elite level and I think I wouldn’t see what the rush was, other than financially, which I understand with people’s jobs.
“But in a football sense I don’t see what the rush would be to try and get the season finished, I would wait till everybody can go.”
⚽️ #EFL Goal of the Season So Far ⚽️
Nearly 40,000 votes later, we’ve got our finalists 🥁 @CauleyWoodrow , @LyndenGooch and @lukeayling_8 ‘s goals go head to head in the final on Friday. Get your voting thumbs warmed up 🙌
⁰ #EFLonQuest #GOTSSF @BarnsleyFC @SunderlandAFC @LUFC pic.twitter.com/NetCD05kRh
— Quest (@QuestTV) April 22, 2020
The EFL is running a competition, with @QuestTV , for fans to vote for the EFL Goal of the Season so far and Ashton will recreate some in his garden. The final will be voted on this Friday from 2pm and you can vote for your favourite of the best three.