UK Sports Minister confident Premier League will help EFL clubs

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government is confident the Premier League will play its part in helping lower tier clubs survive the financial ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister for Sport Nigel Huddleston said on Wednesday.

Soccer Football - National League Play-Off Elimination Round - Yeovil Town v Barnet - Huish Park, Yeovil, Britain - July 18, 2020 Barnet's Scott Loach saves a shot, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Action Images/Paul Childs

Speaking in parliament, Huddleston said it was “vitally important” the big-spending clubs accepted their responsibilities.

“We expect and we require them to help further down the pyramid,” he added.

“I have to say, that is exactly what the Premier League do seem to understand and I am confident that they will play their part and that we will have an announcement very soon.”

The Premier League has discussed a possible cash bail-out of the English Football League (EFL) but clubs are reportedly split, with some feeling they already contribute through transfer fees.

Clubs in the three tiers below the Premier League rely heavily on spectator attendance, with forecast losses of around 200 million pounds ($255 million) if they have to play all season behind closed doors.

Huddleston confirmed that National League clubs, the fifth tier of English soccer, had been given government assurances that they would have financial support to start their season this weekend.

“We are looking for the Premier League to play its part, particularly with the EFL (English Football League), and then the government money (will be) focused on those that are desperately in need,” said Huddleston.

Asked whether that meant there would be no government support for EFL clubs, Huddleston said the details were still being worked out.

“I can say that we do expect and require the Premier League to work with the EFL very carefully and very closely to make sure that they act in a sensible way and take their responsibilities seriously,” he added.

A number of Premier League managers including Liverpool’s Juergen Klopp have said their clubs, who enjoy lucrative television deals, should help lower division sides survive.

The BBC said the National League was hoping for around two to three million pounds a month ($2.5 to $3.8 million) from a package would cover essential revenue lost from matches being played behind closed doors.

The move has been criticised by some parliamentarians who feel the Premier League should be paying rather than the taxpayer.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Angus MacSwan