A football club has always been about more than just sport.
Yes, what happens on the pitch is important. But following your team through thick and thin is also about belonging, identity and tradition.
So today the Mirror is calling on the Government to take action to save struggling clubs pushed to the brink by the coronavirus crisis.
Big or small these institutions bind communities together and create a feeling of place and pride.
And it is not just football. Whether it is rugby league in England’s north or union in Wales and the South West, local clubs are part of our heritage.
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Because of Covid fans cannot go to matches, meaning clubs already facing huge financial pressure could go under.
Their loss would be a devastating blow to areas already hollowed out as banks, shops and police stations close.
Towns and cities would not just lose a source of weekend entertainment, but also the community work done by so many clubs – not to mention decades of history. Even before Covid, lower league sports struggled, with many clubs neglected or mismanaged. Now many are staring into the abyss.
Some of the pain could have been avoided if we had a properly functioning test and trace system.
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The Government urgently needs to come up with a plan to save sport.
Money washing around at the top of the games should be redistributed.
Lottery funding should be directed to help clubs most in need.
No club should go under because of Covid. If we care about our communities we should care about our teams.
What we are calling for
- No club should go under because of Covid
- A clear plan to get fans back in stands where it is safe to do so – including rugby league and rugby union games
- A transfer tax to support lower league football and the professional women’s game
- Lottery support for all grassroots and amateur sport
We can’t risk losing these vital institutions
By Alison McGovern, Shadow Sports Minister and Labour MP for Wirral South
The Government needs a plan for football or we’ll lose much-loved clubs because of Covid 19.
The failure on track and trace has consequences. It is a block in the road for everyone but especially for football clubs.
The Government has had months to get this right so supporters could get back to grounds and many warned this crisis was coming.
This is why it is time for supporters – and all those involved in the game – to make their voices heard: the current situation is not acceptable.
Ask Wigan Athletic supporters. Ask people in Macclesfield. Or Bury.
We cannot allow clubs outside the Premier League to get washed down the drain.
The financial crisis many clubs are facing should worry us all. Many stepped in when the going got tough to serve their local communities – clubs like Tranmere Rovers FC and Darlington FC supported vulnerable fans through lockdown.
Stockport County FC raised £75K for the NHS. We cannot afford to lose the community care, family connections and friendships, which go way beyond the play on the pitch. These are institutions at the heart of our community.
As we come out of this crisis, we will need to bring communities together. Losing our football clubs will make that even harder.
Sports rightly govern themselves but the Government can and should provide leadership.
The Tories agree – that’s why they have promised to make sure football starts delivering for the millions of fans it serves via a government review. The time for a plan is now.
We need everyone to work together and I’m more than happy to work with Tories and everyone in football on this. Clubs need to know what’s happening so they can survive.
National League, formed in 1874
The struggling Cheshire club were wound up over debts totalling more than £500,000 on September 16 this year.
It came weeks after they were relegated to the National League following a turbulent season where they were deducted points over unfulfilled fixtures and missed payments to players.
Owner Amar AlKadhi stepped down as chairman in August but is still the Silkmen’s majority shareholder.
League One, established 1907
In January, Dale sold 17-year-old Luke Matheson to Wolves for a reported £1 million, which has helped shore up their finances.
But CEO David Bottomley yesterday warned lower-league clubs need help, though it should not come from the taxpayer.
He said: “The Premier League needs lower-league clubs to develop players. They do not do it themselves. They need the structure, as much as we need the Premier League.”
League One, Originally formed 1908
The Lancashire club has a long history and the current Fleetwood Town is its fourth incarnation, founded in 1997.
Manager Joey Barton has warned the future of lower league teams like his could be in doubt if the fans do not return.
“Without fans, we won’t have football,” he said this week. “If we don’t get fans back, it’s not going to be long that clubs can survive without revenue. They’re absolutely vital.”
League Two, established 1874. Bolton beat West Ham 2-0 in Wembley’s first FA Cup final in 1923
Bolton were placed in administration in May 2019 after finding themselves in court at least once a year since 2015.
In 2017, a company which owned over a third of the club was wound up. Wanderers found new owners, but neighbours Bury FC went bust last year and were kicked out of the league.
Ashley Brown of the Football Supporters’ Association said at the time “unless something is done, other clubs will follow”.
League One, formed 1932
Wigan won the FA Cup in May 2013, beating Manchester City in the final, however they were relegated later that month bringing their eight-year stay in the Premier League to an end.
The cup success even gained them a Europa League spot, but on July 1, 2020, less than a month after a change of ownership, the club were placed into administration and relegated from the Championship due to the points deduction.
League One, established 1884
Boss Michael Appleton has called for urgent government financial support for League One and League Two clubs.
He spoke out after the decision to freeze the planned return of spectators to sports venues in England from October 1.
Mr Appleton said: “It’s a huge blow. From a financial point of view it’s absolutely devastating. It’s time for the Government to take responsibility.”
League Two, established 1881
Owner Nigel Travis saw Orient’s Carabao Cup tie against Tottenham called off this week due to positive Covid-19 tests.
In an open letter to fans earlier this month, Travis said on latest projections the impact of the coronavirus would mean an additional loss of £1.5million for the East London club.
”We’re getting very little help from the Government,” Travis said. “They need to step up and give football some support.”
League One, established 1893
The Kent-based club’s chairman Paul Scally met local MP Rehman Chishti this month to discuss HMRC demands which are “putting clubs at risk”.
The MP slammed “completely unacceptable” lump sum bills.
Gillingham’s last income was their home game on February 29.
“They are demanding full payment of all arrears in one lump sum, which is unachievable,” said Mr Scally.