This morning I met with Rick Parry, the Chairman of the EFL, alongside other MPs to discuss the challenges EFL clubs are facing. In particular I raised Ipswich Town struggles through the pandemic after I met with the club’s Managing Director earlier this month to discuss them in detail.
Ultimately, getting fans safely back in stadiums and buying tickets has to be the priority for tackling the financial pressures clubs are under. Germany had allowed some fans to return and this seem to work quite well until new national Covid-19 restrictions meant attendance had to be put on hold again. And I’ve also made it clear before in the House of Commons that it was disappointing the Government postponed test case matches at the last minute when Ipswich Town had been ready to welcome back 1,000 fans safely to Portman Road. I appreciate that since then Covid-19 cases have risen in Ipswich and we need to be mindful of this as well.
But as long as fans are absent, there must be a comprehensive support package in place to support EFL clubs, and in the meeting I stressed how we should be looking at things like a PAYE holiday for football league clubs and whether solidarity payments from the Premier League can be increased. I appreciate this isn’t an easy time for many Premier League clubs either but Football League clubs are much more reliant on ticket sales than their Premier League counterparts who receive much more revenue from TV rights. And if EFL teams suffer the whole of English football will lose out.
When it comes to securing the future of Ipswich Town and other EFL clubs we mustn’t get complacent and take our clubs for granted. The idea that Ipswich Town’s future might be called into question if things get worse doesn’t bear thinking about. In the meeting with Rick Parry I mentioned the work the role the club plays in our town’s economy, supporting jobs, and the work it does in the community supporting grassroots football and projects like the new Sir Bobby Robson School. These can easily be lost but take a long time to build back up and it’s vital we put the investment in now to ensure we’re not facing much greater losses further down the line. I’ll remain in close contact with Ipswich Town and I’ll keep looking to raise this issue in the House of Commons wherever possible to fight for our local club.
The club have also told me how they’re ready to be one of the first clubs to take part in test case games where some fans eventually return.. And I’ll use my dialogue with the EFL to support this if it’s safe to do so when the time comes.