"It's hard to foresee crowds of fans returning to matches any time soon!" FA chairman reacts to suggestions 2020-21 season could be played behind closed doors

Could next season be played behind closed doors? Photo: GettyImagesCould next season be played behind closed doors? Photo: GettyImages
Could next season be played behind closed doors? Photo: GettyImages | Getty
FA budget could be cut by £300m

FA chairman Greg Clarke has revealed the organisation's budget could be cut by as much as £300million over the next four years, and has given a bleak assessment on when fans will finally return to football stadiums.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the 2019/20 football season in a state of stasis, the severe financial implications of lost revenue have been felt across the board, leading the governing body to cut this year's budget by £75million - a measure which could be extended for a further three seasons in 'a worst case scenario.'

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This would likely have an effect on grassroots football in Lincolnshire which relies on FA funding.

Writing to all members of the FA council, Clarke wrote: "Whilst we would all like to see football return in the coming weeks, the health of our communities and the protection of the NHS must remain our priority and we will continue to be led by Government advice as we work together with stakeholders from across the game to assess any potential restart.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant financial impact on all sectors of society and sadly football is one of many sports to have been affected as a consequence.

"I want to assure you that we are committed to supporting the game as a whole through this crisis; especially the lower echelons, where the impact has been felt most acutely."

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"Having worked through the numbers with Mark (Bullingham) and the executive team, the Board has agreed that a sensible cut to the annual budget is £75m. In a worst-case scenario, this would be necessary for the next four years to offset a £300m deficit.

"Clearly that will impact many of our plans as every area of the game will be touched and projects that we all value will be affected. There is no other way and I ask for all of you to help us to build this revised plan."

The chairman also addressed the matter of when supporters could be allowed to attend matches again, amid speculation that the entire 2020-21 season could be played behind-closed-doors - a measure which could cause major financial issues for clubs at all levels of the game.

Clarke wrote: "Our executive team has been building out different scenarios that we might potentially face as a result of the pandemic.

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"The reality is that we just don’t know how things are going to pan out, but with social distancing in place for some time to come we do face substantial changes to the whole football ecosystem.

"For example it’s hard to foresee crowds of fans – who are the lifeblood of the game – returning to matches any time soon."