We live in uncertain times and our priority is to support the Government’s public health initiatives. The wellbeing of all of us, and especially our most vulnerable members, must be our focus and the Government’s instructions regarding social distancing are our route to safety.
However, football needs to pay attention to the economic effects of the pandemic as well as rigorously following public health guidance.
Football, like many other sectors of the economy has been hit hard by effectively closing down its business. From grassroots through the semi-professional pyramid to the professional game: clubs have closed, games are cancelled, terraces are empty and cash flow has stalled.
Yesterday, Mark Bullingham, the FA Chief Executive, announced the measures the FA Board approved to stabilise our finances given the suspension of the games that drive our revenue streams. The FA is suffering from the severe financial consequences of the pandemic which could be in the range £150 million upwards over the next two years. The pay cuts and furloughing we have implemented buys us time to understand more fully the duration of the lockdown and its economic impact on us.
Returning to the issue of uncertainty, no one knows how long the lock down will last and what social distancing measures will endure even when the daily rate of infection is much reduced. Our Government is rightly cautious as human life is at stake and prudence is our only sensible option.
We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit. However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority, human life is, and we will do as the Government directs as the pandemic unfolds.
Further down the football pyramid, our Leagues have requested that the season is curtailed and that decision rests with the FA Council.
Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it. The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer.
We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse. Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection.
In the face of this unprecedented adversity, all the stakeholders within the game from players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.
Everyone should understand that the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this and whilst they are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base, the potential overall financial impact is huge.
We must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted. We hope we do not need this plan as we are all determined to finish the professional football season, however we would be fools not to develop such a contingency plan. Those that lost their clubs because English football did not rise to the challenge would rightly judge us harshly.
Time is pressing as football burns through its cash reserves with no sign yet of a resumption of the game. Pointing fingers serves no purpose.
It is time for the stakeholders to agree common cause to save our game. Contribute. Football is a team game and now is the time for teamwork.
The FA looks forward to working with all football stakeholders to safeguard the future of our game.