Six ways to save the crumbling Football League pyramid

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Six ways to save the crumbling Football League pyramid

The football pyramid is crumbling below the Premier League. So what should happen? Here are the main options, for and against. Any one of them would save the Football League. Push has come to shove. Time to make a choice.


Rich owners should pay all the bills and wages for the duration of the pandemic
: It would allow the club to be effectively mothballed until there’s a vaccine and crowds can return. Some such as Michael Eisner at Portsmouth can easily afford it. If they believe in the club and in our football, they should get their hand in their pocket.

Against: Many clubs don’t have a rich owner who can afford to do this. So what happens to them? Others simply don’t want to do it and won’t do it. After all, who puts limitless money into a business, on an open-ended basis and for no return? They didn’t sign up for that.


The Premier League should bail the EFL out with a £200m cash donation
: A couple of hundred million is the loss facing the EFL. The Premier League can afford it and have a duty of care to protect the pyramid which provides teams into their league. The clubs that play in their league also employ players who came through lower-league clubs in one way or another.

Against: Why should they? The Premier League is a separate business to the EFL, and would end up bailing out badly-run clubs. It is also more financially fragile itself due to the pandemic and loss of broadcast rights income. Also, the clubs’ playing staff are drawn from all over the world, not just the Football League pyramid, so should they bail out leagues in other countries as well? Where does it stop?


The government should provide a one-off bailout payment, or extend the furlough scheme so clubs can keep paying non-playing and playing staff
: £200million is a drop in the ocean of governmental spending. that it would cost more in everything from funding benefit payments, worse health outcomes, social isolation and criminality to have a large unemployed workforce. Not paying to keep them in work is a false economy. Keeping clubs in business is good for community and societal unity. We’re all in it together, remember? So, use OUR money to help OUR people.

Against: The state can’t keep every business afloat with the promise of indefinite free money. Lots of other businesses are laying off staff; why should football clubs be any different? What’s so special about football, as opposed to Premier Inns, John Lewis or your local wholefood store?


Premier League players should donate some of their wages to help the pyramid which supported them in their early career
: They have been the main beneficiaries of football’s largesse and have had almost all the money. The Premier League wage bill is £2.9billion. £200million would keep the EFL afloat for the whole season. So a donation of under 10% of their salary is all that is needed to keep the whole league afloat. The average Premier League wage is £70,000 a week, so they’d have to get by on £63,000 per week: no hardship. They’d be helping the industry which put them in their elite position.

Against: It’s not down to them to bail out the industry. Maybe they’ve budgeted to survive on £70,000 per week and can’t spare it. They already do their bit by paying a lot of tax and making other charitable donations. The campaign donated £4million to NHS charities; that’s 0.13% of their total income, is that not enough? Gareth Bale gave £1million to the fight against COVID – equivalent to 11 days of his wages. What more do you want?


Just let clubs go bust. They’ll just have to start again when this is all over
. Many clubs have been run badly and in a financially irresponsible way for decades. This is a chance for a reboot. Yes, it’s harsh for players and staff to lose their jobs, but not uniquely and when there’s a vaccine the demand for going to football will return and clubs can be re-established in a more financially cautious and sustainable way.

Against. When some clubs go, they’ll not come back. Grounds will become dilapidated. It will also be depressing for local communities and a betrayal of an important civic and community asset which has a positive influence in every town in the country.


The FSA starts a Crowdfunder for donations to bail out the EFL with £200million of our money. The football community could come together to raise the money in the same way we do for Comic Relief. In return, we, the people, get a stake in the game, a voice on the board of every club and through the FSA help shape how the game is funded and run

For: It’s our game. It belongs to us. It needs our help. So we come together. We raise money in any way we can and we put it into a new Football Welfare Fund which will provide income to clubs to see them through this crisis in return for significant input into club and league matters to prevent bad owners behaving badly.

Against: It’s too late to organise this and there’s not enough time to raise that amount of money. It also sounds like communism. Badly-run clubs and idiot owners will be bailed out by our money. It shouldn’t be down to us to do this. Someone else other than me should have to pay out hard-earned cash to save clubs. I don’t want to have to pay the wages of our goalie, he’s shit. I’m skint and anyway, I prefer moaning to actually doing anything.

Are there any other solutions? Something has to be done. And it has to be done within weeks not months. Which side are you on?

John Nicholson


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