Government minister encourages clubs - including Portsmouth - to 'get going behind closed doors'

A decision on the League One season is due on Tuesday.  Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty ImagesA decision on the League One season is due on Tuesday.  Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
A decision on the League One season is due on Tuesday. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images | Getty Images
Football should ‘first look after itself’ and ‘get going behind closed doors’.

That’s what Government minister Oliver Dowden has said, after calls were made for a state-backed plan to help league clubs avoid insolvency amid coronavirus.

A plan co-authored by Sunderland co-owner Charlie Methven and former Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee chair Damian Collins has called for the establishment by the FA of a Football Finance Authority (FFA).

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The project, which Pompey chairman Mark Catlin has cautiously supported, would be underwritten by the Government and provide funds to keep clubs affected by the Covid-19 outbreak afloat.

Collins has argued there may only be a few weeks ‘to save professional football as we know it’, with League One and Two clubs in particular stretched by the complete loss of match-day revenue.

And in response to his questioning on the subject, Secretary of State for DCMS, Dowden, said: ‘The most important first step is to get sports going behind closed doors because that helps secure revenue, so we've got the Premier League and then the Championship.

‘I would look first to sports to look after themselves and I'm meeting extensively with the EFL and Premiership and FA. But of course we'll continue to work on this.’

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The Government has already pledged a £16m loan to help keep rugby league in England going.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has not ruled out further support from the top flight to the EFL and further down the pyramid.

But he indicated the first priority was to complete the 2019-20 season and see how things looked.

‘Until we have been able to get back playing, until we have a clear plan to start season 2020-21, we are dealing with our own situation,’ he told Sky Sports.

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‘At the moment we have made good all our solidarity contributions to the pyramid for 2019-20 and indeed we have forwarded a big chunk of next year's revenue, and we are committed to completing that.

‘What we have to get ourselves into is a position where we are sure of the Premier League's financial situation at a time when clubs are suffering significant revenue (losses), before we can return to that topic.’

The Premier League has set a provisional restart date of June 17, while the Championship is set to resume on June 20.

League One clubs are still to agree on what should happen to the 2019-20 season, although a curtailment of the campaign looks likely.

The result of a scheduled vote is due on Tuesday.

Pompey’s last game came against Fleetwood on Tuesday March 10.

Their stance throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been to see the season concluded on the pitch.

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