Great Britain

FA chief Greg Clarke warns football could be ‘decimated’ by coronavirus as he urges Prem stars to end wage dispute

FOOTBALL’S top bosses have joined forces to warn the game is on its knees.

FA chairman Greg Clarke fears the sport is in danger of being “decimated” by the coronavirus crisis.

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And Premier League chief Richard Masters says they could lose at least £1BILLION if the season does not restart.

It was a clear message to players that they must end their current wage dispute.

Clarke told the FA council: “Many communities could lose the clubs at From Back Page

 their heart with little chance of  resurrection. In the face of this unprecedented adversity, players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.

“The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer. We face the danger of losing clubs and  leagues as finances collapse.

“Pointing fingers serves no purpose. We must have a plan to ensure English football is not decimated. It is time for the stakeholders to agree common cause to save our game.”

Masters is worried teams will go bust if the season is cancelled.

He said: “We face a £1billion loss, at least, if we fail to complete  season 2019-20 and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends.

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“Ultimately, the very heavy losses we face will have to be dealt with, or clubs and other enterprises who depend on football for income will go out of business.

“We do not say this lightly, or to justify club’s decisions — it is a very real threat.”

SunSport this week called on Clarke to broker a peace deal after players and clubs failed to find an agreement over wage cuts.

That followed a dramatic weekend when the Prem demanded PFA  members  agree a 30 per cent wage deferral but the bid was rejected.

 England boss Gareth Southgate has taken a 30 per cent cut.

But the league cannot enforce them and talks  are set to resume later this week.

Players are reportedly concerned  money will not be spread to their intended targets, which are the lower leagues and the NHS.

But their union did yesterday  pledge  £1million to the players’ NHS   support fund, with boss Gordon  Taylor paying a further £500,000 from his own pocket.

The Premier League has also been accused over clubs furloughing staff.

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Liverpool bowed to public pressure by reversing their vow to furlough half their non-playing employees.

But Tottenham, Newcastle, Norwich and Bournemouth  still plan to use the Government’s emergency scheme.

Conservative MP Julian Knight,  chair of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: “It is time  for the Premier League to stop defending the indefensible.

“They should be working out a way to carry on paying the wages of club staff without resorting to taking money from the Government.

“It is frankly laughable  and flies in the face of public opinion. Liverpool have listened to fans, done the right thing and changed its mind.”

But in a letter to Knight, Masters hit back,  saying: “The furlough scheme announced by Government is meant for the whole economy.

“Premier League finances are dependent on money from broadcast rights, as well as revenues generated  from matchday income and  commercial sponsorships.

“With no matches being played, these resources have been  temporarily halted, therefore clubs are facing tough decisions.”

Sean Dyche criticises Matt Hancock's 'massive generalisation' as he warns MPs to lay off players

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