We speak with Professor of Economics at Lancaster University, Robert Simmons to find out just how serious the financial crisis facing clubs is and is it time we started letting fans back in?
Sputnik: As a result of the pandemic, just how serious is the financial crisis facing English football? And could we perhaps see the collapse of the English football pyramid as a result?
Prof. Robert Simmons: It certainly is under threat. I mean, it's rather obvious, isn't it? If you've got no income coming in, because you can't have any crowds at your game you're not playing the games at all, then no income expenses still have to be made out to the players contract to be honoured, that kind of thing. Yes, there is a threat.
Sputnik: Is it possible at all for football to survive without the fans and if not has the pandemic has taught us anything, has it shown us just how vital fans are?
Prof. Robert Simmons: I think it does show fans are really important at the lower levels. I mean, the top level, the elite level Premier League and leagues like that, it is possible to survive because they have broadcasting income, you know, games are being played, they're being televised.
Sputnik: Is it time we followed the lead of German and French football and started trying to let fans back into grounds?
Prof. Robert Simmons: That's a really difficult one, isn't it because safety protocols would have to be observed. I think we could learn a lot from the experiences elsewhere. Germany, Bundesliga, there are a few fans back in. Now, we don't know if there are any reports of any COVID infections out of that, but procedures seem to be quite rigorous there. But there's lots of ifs and buts. Certainly you couldn't have crowds back on the scale of previously.
Sputnik: Why do you think it is that the financial crisis is hitting clubs in England, worse than mainland Europe? And is the England pyramid system sustainable, in its current model or do the changes now need to be made to it?
Sputnik: Do you think there should be a government rescue package or should some of the wealth from the Premier League clubs be filtered down and used to help the smaller clubs?
Prof. Robert Simmons: I think we're going to see both. The Premier League would be asked to help out but it's in their interest to actually, because if they've got a strong Football League underneath, and that stronger clubs are getting promoted into the Premier League, to have weak clubs coming up would not be good for the game at that level. So I think they've got an interest in doing that. The same time though, the UK Government has given out 1.6 billion pounds in donations to the art sector, subsidy to the arts. So not saying should be the exact same figure but some kind of relief help for the Football League, they seem to have a case there.
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