Coronavirus: People being allowed in pubs but not stadiums ‘bizarre’ – EFL’s Rick Parry

How long can football clubs survive without the return of fans in the stadium?

English Football League chairman Rick Parry says it is “a little bizarre” people are allowed in pubs but cannot attend football matches.

Crowds were due to return to sports events in limited numbers next month, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that this will not go ahead.

The decision came after seven EFL clubs piloted small crowds last Saturday.

“We believe we’ve created models of a really safe environment where people could be entertained safely,” he said.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Parry added: “It just seems a little bizarre that you can still go into pubs and clubs and circulate, albeit you have to come out at 10 o’clock.

“It is a tad ironic and disappointing as we had seven extremely successful pilots at the weekend.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Parry said in a statement that the EFL was “deeply frustrated” after Tuesday’s news that fans’ return to matches would be halted.

The league is “expecting” financial support will be made available from the government, but is not aware at this stage what form it will take.

“Clearly it would be a preference to have grants rather than loans but we are entirely realistic,” Parry added.

“Many of the packages we’re exploring at the moment contain an element of loan. Of course it has to be paid back, but the priority at the moment is getting through the next 12 months, getting through the virus.”

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Norwich City’s home game against Preston North End on Saturday was one of seven fixtures in the EFL to trial a limited return of fans

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden held a meeting with representatives of several major sports following Tuesday’s announcement, during which a request for a sports recovery fund was discussed.

The EFL is one of a number of bodies to outline concerns over the government’s decision, with Rugby Football Union chief Bill Sweeney saying no spectators at the forthcoming Autumn Nations Cup or Six Nations will result in losses of £60m.

Meanwhile, the Premier League is considering alternatives after the proposed return of fans was scrapped, with season ticket holders accessing streams of matches not due to be broadcast an idea being addressed.

Asked whether the EFL had been in contact with the Premier League in light of Tuesday’s announcement, Parry said: “We remain confident, we remain in dialogue.

“Paradoxically, perhaps because of yesterday’s announcement, it’s now a shared problem. It’s not just our problem, it’s their problem as well and maybe that brings the whole thing rather more into focus. We now have a collective problem, hopefully we can find a collective solution.”

‘It’s like a pre-season friendly every week’

Swindon Town boss Richie Wellens believes, in the light of the government’s decision, that Premier League clubs should provide funding to support clubs in the third and fourth tiers.

“It’s like playing a pre-season friendly every week. It’s so difficult,” he told BBC Radio Wiltshire.

“It was a devastating blow for football yesterday that supporters have not been allowed in, especially when you see people in pubs and supermarkets and they’re in an enclosed environment and they’re still walking past each other.

“I don’t agree with giving us [EFL clubs] a loan that we pay back interest free. That would help, but I just think if they were to take a couple of million pounds from each of the Premier League clubs, it would create £40m to disperse between League One and Two clubs and that would help massively.”

Meanwhile, Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling said in an open letterexternal-link to the prime minister on Wednesday he was “astounded” by the decision.

“With this one decision you have not only threatened the livelihoods of the staff at Colchester United and the local businesses that rely on our club, and not only those staff and local businesses of every other football club in the EFL, but those of every club across every sport in the UK,” he said.

“Just so I understand it when I’m having to lay off even more staff, can someone explain to me again how I can safely sit in a confined aeroplane with 300 other passengers, and I can safely eat inside a restaurant or drink inside a pub until 10pm, but I can’t safely attend a football match which is predominately outside and has been certificated as safe by a SAG (safety advisory group)?”

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