According to a survey, nearly two-thirds of lower division clubs would consider starting earlier to reduce floodlight use during the cost of living crisis.
As bills rise for the winter, about 60 percent of clubs also admit they need to halt ground improvements and 38 percent are said to be “looking at cutting off the non-playing staff”. Campaign group Fair Game says data from a sample of 40 clubs points to a “deep-seated fear among the country’s lower clubs”.
The results will be published today (Wednesday) in an effort to pressure the Premier League into finalizing terms for the new bailout package, the so-called “New Deal for Football”.
Top-tier shareholders meet in a London hotel to discuss an offer that appears to replace parachute payments, but Fair Game is skeptical of proposed changes. Several non-league leagues have given tee times before, and several lower-league teams have previously told Telegraph Sport they would be open to following suit to keep electricity bills low.
The Football Association has authorized a number of non-league leagues to postpone kick-off times earlier. Commenting on the investigation, an FA spokesperson said: “The FA and County FAs are non-profit organizations that are reinvesting all of their money back into football. Our priority over the past few seasons, including through the worst of the pandemic, has been to evidence of this approach as we worked to support grassroots clubs and the volunteers who run them to survive the period and get back on their feet.”
Telegraph Sport understands that the prospect of the EFL moving the afternoon kickoff – to about 1pm – was discussed at the league’s board meeting last week. Next week, clubs will debate the issue for the first time. However, it is acknowledged that it has not yet been established whether there would be a significant benefit to move the kick-off times. As the light fades in winter, floodlights are needed more regularly throughout the afternoon.
Fair Game, which campaigns for better governance of the game, said the survey is based on “one club in the Championship, five in League One, six in League Two, nine in the National League, seven in National League North, six in National League South, and five further down the pyramid”.
“Almost all clubs surveyed were concerned or very concerned about the cost of living crisis,” the campaign group said. “Average at 10, clubs’ concerns were a massive 7.15 – a figure that peaked among clubs in League Two (8.20).”
Of the clubs surveyed, 68 percent demanded additional financial support from the Premier League and 53 percent asked for state intervention.
While 63 percent would consider lunch kick-off for weekend league games, 50 percent would consider lunch kick-off for FA Cup games. Only 25 percent of clubs would consider cutting player wages – and most of those clubs are outside the top four in the country.
Niall Couper, chief executive of Fair Game, said: “The results paint a very bleak future for football beyond the pinnacle of the game. Having survived the pandemic, the cost of living crisis could be the death knell for the hard-working community clubs lower in the pyramid Lower-level football clubs are the beating heart of their community, but are now in intensive care.
“The Premier League is going to offer a tacky patch at best. They have had decades to deal with the problem and they must stand by. It is now up to the government to intervene.”
England’s summit has met on several occasions since “New Deal” proposals were first presented to executives in July. The deal is at the top of the agenda as shareholders meet again on Wednesday. Clubs are discussing a possible reservation as part of the new package that would see reruns of the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup.
The Premier League has been overhauling its distribution models for at least two years, after coming under pressure from the furore caused by Project Big Picture and the European Super League.
An important part of the new redistribution system will aim to ensure that some of the checks distributed to clubs will be spent on infrastructure such as training grounds rather than wages.
There will also be a renewed focus on merit in an effort to contain Championship-level wage overruns, with payments on a sliding scale based on position in the pyramid.
Parachute payments could remain, but they would be significantly reduced from the £44 million given to relegated clubs for the first season after going bankrupt.
Fair Game is a coalition of 34 professional football clubs.