Sunday, October 25, 2020

Dowden: ‘unreasonable’ Premier League conditions holding up EFL bailout | Football


The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has said a bailout of the EFL has been held up by the Premier League adding conditions to the deal.

Appearing in front of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, Dowden said the Premier League should not be “extracting unreasonable conditions” in return for providing money to support the football pyramid through the Covid-19 crisis.

He said the EFL should forget “the distraction” of Project Big Picture and concentrate on agreeing a bailout that’s “there to be done”. If it did not, Dowden said, questions would have to be asked over the game’s ability to govern itself.

The government sees the crisis affecting sport as distinct from the longer-term issues that prompted it to call for a “fan-led review” of football governance in its election manifesto last year. But Dowden said the review could be brought forward “imminently” if both parties could not agree.

The EFL is understood to have rejected an offer of a £150m bailout which amounted to £40m in grants and £110m in loans earlier in the autumn. The offer fell well short of the £250m sought by chair Rick Parry but also came with conditions attached, such as support for new immigration rules following Brexit and a say on a Championship wage cap.

Asked about the offer by the Labour MP Clive Efford, Dowden said: “Of course that is why the deal hasn’t been done because of those sort of conditions. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a deal to be done. [The Premier League] should not be extracting unreasonable conditions. It is a deal between the two parties.”

Dowden said he had been assured that no EFL clubs would be allowed to go to the wall in the short term, but he said this was a “piecemeal” approach and a broader deal was necessary.

“To be clear I have had assurance from the EFL that they have the resources to make that happen,” he said. “But we need a comprehensive deal and I think [Project Big Picture] is a distraction from that, at best.

“I think it demonstrates that we were wise to put in our manifesto provisions for a fan-led review. It genuinely brings into question the ability of football to govern itself properly.

“I don’t want to be conducting a review when there is a crisis in football but I’m being left with little choice to return to it imminently because of the failure of football to help itself.”

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