Premier League and EFL ‘close’ over bailout, says Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

The Premier League is very close to agreeing a bailout deal with English Football League clubs, says Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

Dowden told BBC Sport he hopes clubs can get a new deal over the line by next week.

He added that a suggested £250m package “would be a good place to get to”.

“Ultimately it will be a decision between the EFL and the Premier League,” he said. “Of course we are engaging closely with them.

“We are also doing our bit as the government, but also working with HM Revenue and Customs for clubs in trouble to make sure they are not pushing them further into trouble.”

When asked if the package would be agreed by next week, he said: “That is very much what I am hoping for – they have to get it over the line.”

On Thursday, the government announced a rescue package of £300m of emergency funding for sports in England impacted by the absence of spectators because of coronavirus.

But clubs in the Premier League and EFL are not among the beneficiaries, with Dowden pointing towards top-flight clubs spending £1.2bn in the summer transfer window.

He said: “It’s not my money I am spending, it is taxpayers’ money. Can I look taxpayers in the eye and say ‘you should be paying for EFL and Premier League clubs that are in trouble’, when there are the resources in the game?

“It t is a reasonable proposition. The Premier League has accepted that and accepted the need for grants and loans.

“We are making good progress with them and because of that they have given the assurance they won’t allow any EFL club to go under.”

Dowden added he “desperately wants fans to be back” in stadiums in England, and suggested some could be allowed in lower-risk areas once the country’s lockdown finishes on 2 December.

“Ultimately, the collective public health judgement we took was not to go ahead and in hindsight was the right call,” he said.

“There is a possibility, a chance, that as we move out of the lockdown into the tiers – it is going to be tough and the advice is we need to strengthen those tiers to keep the disease under control – but there is a chance in lower-risk areas if we can do it in a safe way we might begin to start the process to see fans come back.”

Dowden said it could be a “win-win” situation for the government if supporters are encouraged to have a coronavirus test before they enter stadiums.

“If they test negative, they’ll have a window to go in and see their home game, see their home side playing,” he said.

“And the government would win because we get to see where the virus is.”

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