LONDON — Elite football clubs need to do more to support lower division teams struggling financially during the pandemic, Downing Street said, after the head of the Premier League blamed “scarce resources” for the failure to agree on a bailout package.
Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said the government wanted to see “progress” in talks between the Premier League and the English Football League, adding pointedly that top-flight clubs had “spent over £1 billion on players in the recent transfer window” — comparable to the amount spent by the next four biggest leagues in Europe combined.
The intervention came after Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters told POLITICO that top-flight clubs stood ready to offer support, but on the basis of “’need’ rather than ‘want.’”
“Where you have scarce resources in the current environment that has to be the right approach,” Masters said in an interview, adding that the Premier League’s approach was to try to protect lower league clubs at risk of going out of business but not to “underwrite losses.”
The EFL says £250 million is needed to keep its clubs afloat. The Premier League has offered only £50 million in grants and loans, however, along with a pledge that no club will be allowed to go bust. Masters is due to give evidence to the House of Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday, in what is expected to be a fractious appearance.
Asked at a daily press briefing whether the prime minister approved of Masters’ comments, Johnson’s spokesperson said: “I think what we’ve been clear about right from the outset is we expect football to support itself. This was an explicit part of the support we provided to enable [football’s post-lockdown revival] Project Restart.
“We do want to see progress, particularly when Premier League clubs have spent over £1 billion on players in the recent transfer window, which I believe was nearly as much as the next four biggest leagues in Europe put together.”