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‘Clubs at every level are at risk’ – the financial nightmare facing football

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Leeds United’s players, coaching staff and senior management have volunteered to take a wage deferral because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic

Luton chief executive Gary Sweet has warned the future of clubs “at every level” are at risk unless there is “a swift and material aid package” from the game’s authorities to deal with the impact of Covid-19.

Sweet has been a central figure in the Hatters’ rise from non-league back to the Championship and, having experienced the issues involved in running a club at four levels of the English pyramid, is seriously concerned as the game’s suspension heads into its second month.

“Lower-league clubs are vulnerable because they are so reliant upon ticket income and many Championship clubs are vulnerable due to the severe overstretching of expenditure,” he said.

“At Luton we have the benefit of Championship central distribution and a relatively low cost base. This situation is going to hurt us, so I dread to think how it will impact some clubs.”

On 3 April, the Premier League agreed to advance £125m in payments to the EFL and National League, although only £2m of it will go to the 68 National League clubs.

Where are we now?

English football is stopped indefinitely.

Premier League clubs meet on Friday, but it will be mid-May before Uefa comes forward with its proposals, having already warned that any league ending its season prematurely puts places in next season’s European competitions at risk.

Non-league clubs are considering legal action after the FA Council ratified the decision to void the season between tiers three and six – the divisions below National League level. National League clubs have been asked to vote on ending the campaign without knowing how promotion and relegation is to be decided.

In Leagues One and Two, the deadline for payment of April’s wages is approaching and mass furloughing of players is being threatened.

Meanwhile, in the Championship, business plans are under even greater strain than normal.

No consensus among the Championship 24

Of the 21 Championship clubs who competed in the EFL last season, the latest published accounts for five of them included parachute payments that came with relegation from the Premier League.

In 13 instances out of the remaining 16, the club’s wage bills exceeded their income. In their accounts, Reading and Birmingham said there was “material uncertainty” over their ability to exist as a going concern. As is the case for the majority of Championship clubs, they are reliant on funding from their owners.

It has been reported