LONDON. — English Football Association chairman Greg Clarke does not believe fans will be allowed into stadiums “any time soon” and has warned that the coronavirus crisis could cost the governing body £300 million.
Football across England has been indefinitely suspended, with the 2019/20 season in all leagues below the top four divisions already declared over.
However, there are growing fears that the 2020/21 campaign also faces huge disruption due to social-distancing guidelines.
“With social distancing in place for some time to come we do face substantial changes to the whole football ecosystem,” Clarke wrote in a letter to the FA Council.
“For example, it’s hard to foresee crowds of fans, who are the lifeblood of the game, returning to matches any time soon.” The Premier League is still hoping to finish the season behind closed doors, with “Project Restart” aimed at minimising a predicted £1 billion loss if the campaign cannot be completed.
It is understood top-flight clubs were told on Friday that the remaining matches of the season must be played at neutral venues.
Further down the pyramid, where gate receipts make up a much higher percentage of clubs’ income without lucrative TV deals, there are doubts over whether a new season can even start without fans being allowed to attend.
The FA has also been affected by the cancellation of at least four England fixtures and the suspension of the FA Cup.
Clarke said a “sensible” £75 million budget cut had been agreed.
“In a worst-case scenario, this would be necessary for the next four years to offset a £300 million deficit,” he added.
“Clearly that will impact many of our plans as every area of the game will be touched and projects that we all value will be affected.”
Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris believes that ending the English Premier League season without declaring Liverpool champions would be “cruel”, but the Tottenham captain wants the final table decided on the field.
The goalkeeper is following the English social isolation rules at home with his family in London, helping his two oldest daughters with their homework while trying to stay fit in case the reason restarts.
“We’re in a situation where everyone wants to finish and get the verdict from the pitch,” Lloris told French sports daily L’Equipe. “It would be terrible if it all ended like that with nine or 10 games to go in the Premier League.”
“We’re coming into the most exciting, beautiful time of the season. Nobody wants it to end like this.”
Liverpool lead the table by 25 points.
“It would be cruel for Liverpool with the lead they have. They’re practically champions.
“There would be a taste of the unfinished business.”
The France captain says that resuming the Premier League without fans will be strange.
“It’ll be weird wherever it happens. Football is not a closed-door sport,” he said. “Without spectators, it’s not the same sport. That’s not how I see football.
“We’re here to bond, to share our emotions. We all want full stadiums, with atmosphere, fans, colour and song.”
“But you have to take the context into consideration.”
“Everyone has to find the right compromise between health, which is above all else, and the need to finish this season,” he added. The British government still has not given any indication when football will be able to resume.
“We have to be ready. Just in case,” said Lloris, who was among the players to return to Tottenham’s training centre last week for individual sessions.
The World Cup winner contributed the gloves he wore when Tottenham lost the 2019 Champions League final to Liverpool in France for one charity auction. They raised €4 800.
He also organised a France team auction with Blaise Matuidi, the Juventus midfielder, and Raphael Varane, the Real Madrid defender, and raised more than 300 000 euros for Paris hospitals.
“This gesture does not represent much compared to the investment made by caregivers,” he said. — AFP.