Football must “reset” after the coronavirus pandemic “shone a light on the culture of unfair pay” in the sport, says a government report.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee’s stark report said “the current football business model is not sustainable,” and called on the Premier League to “step up” and help the English Football League.
In the report, the committee – chaired by Conservative MP Julian Knight – also said:
- Parachute payments “must become a thing of the past”.
- Football must become more representative of black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups and outlaw homophobic chanting.
- The lack of women’s elite sport “risks undoing work to improve funding”.
- It supports calls for the government to continue financial assistance to sports until fans are able to return.
- The government should fund advertisements to encourage a return to recreational sport “without fear”.
‘One in five clubs on a watchlist’
It came just months after Bury were expelled from the EFL because of financial difficulties.
Several Premier League clubs put non-playing staff on furlough during the pandemic despite continuing to pay players’ wages in full, decisions – some of which were later reversed – the committee said were “deplorable”.
Knight told the Press Association there were “10-15 EFL clubs on a watchlist right now in terms of whether they go bust”.
Parry, in evidence to the DCMS committee in May, said it was “difficult to answer” how many clubs could go out of business as a result of the pandemic. He said a “complete reset” was needed, suggesting a redistribution of revenue in the sport.
Parry also told the committee that parachute payments – given to clubs relegated from the Premier League to soften the financial blow – are “an evil that need to be eradicated”.
Six clubs in the 2019-20 Championship received parachute payments averaging £40m, while the remaining 18 clubs received £4.5m in ‘solidarity payments’.
The committee said: “Parachute payments must become a thing of the past, and considerable work must be done to advance work on salary caps.”
It added: “The Premier League is the main income generator of English football. If it does not step up to help the English Football League, many more clubs will follow in Bury FC’s footsteps. The EFL needs also to ensure it develops a more sustainable financial model.”
In response, Premier League chief executive Richard Masterstold the committeeits annual £200m funding to the EFL – as “big supporters of the pyramid” – was paid prior to the pandemic and would continue “despite significant losses” to the league and its clubs.
He also said there has been “no specific approach” from the EFL about any rescue package.
Masters explained that “safety net” parachute payments allow newly promoted clubs to “invest and be competitive” in the top flight.
‘Football must become more representative’
The DCMS committee report also said football must become “more representative” of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) populations.
It said the virtual absence of black club owners and chief executives is a “fundamental inequality at the heart of the game”.
At present there only five BAME managers across the top flight and EFL.
In July, the Football Association asked for clubs to voluntarily sign up for an ‘Equality In Football Leadership’ code, to increase diversity, and “ensuring that their boardrooms and backroom staff better reflect the communities they serve”.
But the report said that initiative would not “motivate clubs to act with sufficient speed”.
“Instead, we recommend that DCMS revises the code for sport governance, adding targets for BAME representation on boards,” it said.
The committee also said it would “continue to pursue opportunities in this parliament to introduce legislation outlawing homophobic chanting at matches”.
Women’s sport ‘disproportionately affected’
The report also looked at the impact