SAVING English football is a conundrum for the Government and the delightfully caring Premier League.
One of the top-flight’s chairman even offered up the fabulous solution of excluding fans of a certain age this week.
The Football League is a national treasure with 72 clubs losing a combined £20million-a-month.
Without support it faces a real crisis, especially the longer the Government’s ludicrous policy of choosing between spectator environments – Royal Albert Hall YES! QPR’s Loftus Road NO! – goes on.
The problem is, football is an ugly fix.
The Government doesn’t get it, it sees £1.2billion spent by Premier League clubs, unions refusing wage controls, idiot footballers breaching Covid-19 rules and scandalous Premier League suggestions of £14.95 for each pay-per-view game.
It says “sort yourselves out” or in DCMS head Oliver Dowden’s case probably “chaps, this is poor form”.
The PL, riding in with Project Big Picture, is on the money about repackaging all broadcaster revenues and doubling the current position by giving 25 per cent of finances to the EFL, eliminating parachute payments and, with an upfront for now solution of £250m, but it is a false utopia.
It’s a lunatic notion that 14 turkeys in the top flight would actually vote to hand all the power to the self-anointed Big Six and put themselves in the firing line for being one of two additional clubs booted out of the league.
The EFL crisis is being used in pursuit of a shameless land grab of power, to give unfettered influence to the Big Six.
The fact EFL chair Rick Parry sees this as a viable solution to today’s crisis suggests he is away with the fairies or, perhaps worse, has a Machiavellian agenda.
For everyone bar Liverpool, Arsenal, the Manchester clubs, Tottenham and Chelsea it’s a wolf in wolf’s clothing.
The last time the EPL did something ‘nice’ was solidarity payments, which led to clubs giving up compensation rights for academy players, losing tens of millions as a result.
This time it would be even more draconian, siding with the Premier League about home-grown player rules post-Brexit.
Then there would be B teams from the Premier League, as put forward by Ferran Soriano of Manchester City, because clubs likes his once upon a time lost young players like Jadon Sancho for next to nothing abroad.
There is no consideration of what that does to the EFL, or the hypocrisy it shows as they actually pinched Sancho themselves from Watford for next to nothing.
This is before we even get into relegation and promotion being eliminated, levies, regulations on transfer fees and being forced to accept its new paymasters’ view on everything.
Once you get past the fanciful Project Big Picture the fact remains, it’s not a question of if a bailout is required, it’s how much of one – and who does it?
The only entity that won’t screw the EFL is the Government.
The problem is the EFL – both now and in the past – is poorly run and led by incompetents who have earned reputations their deeds don’t warrant.
I sat in Football League meetings for far longer than I wanted and listened to absolute drivel.
When real reform was needed, petty nonsense was discussed.
In the crisis over ITV digital in 2002 for instance, the incompetence was staggering.
EFL clubs were signed to a broadcast deal with a startup business that had no funding, no parent company guarantees from ITV, and clubs got royally shafted for millions when it inevitably failed.
Very little has changed in the quality and competency of Football League execs.
We are seeing clubs with owners that pass ‘fit and proper tests’ who should actually be in police line-ups, rules that are creating civil wars in the Championship and financial governance enabling clubs to run at 200 per cent of wages to turnover.
The Government has the key and the obligation to bail out the EFL.
It doesn’t have to be a gift, it can be sold as a long-term loan, lent at low rates, with the Premier League servicing interest and saving football without the cost or leverage to screw its poorer cousin.
These loans would be easily absorbed into the clubs’ planning.
It’s £250m, for goodness sake, not £3.5bn handed out in false Covid-19 support claims.
If you factored in a levy on clubs being promoted to the top-flight and relegated down to the EFL paying three per cent of their enormous Premier League money to help repay these loans then there’s £15m-a-year without touching the sides.
And putting an additional levy on transfer fees in the EFL to repay loans will enable further solutions.
It’s not rocket science, it’s having the thinking to provide solutions and having the balls to implement them.
I hope that those who have the opportunity get it spot on and do the right thing by the 380,000 fans who would watch EFL football every week if they could.