For the past six months, COVID-19 has prevented spectators around the world from attending sporting events in person. One could be excused for thinking that fans not being able to see their favorite teams and athletes compete live and up close certainly feels like an inconsequential complaint in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly one million people to date. However, it’s proving to be a much more serious problem for the teams and leagues that rely on gameday revenue streams to stay in business.
For Liverpool and their Premier League counterparts, the loss of revenue from ticket sales, merchandise, and concessions has certainly been felt, but most have the means to continue operating thanks to extremely lucrative television and sponsorship deals. Unfortunately, teams in the English Football League are much more reliant on gameday revenues. Without this vital revenue stream, the folding of teams is likely a question of when, not if.
There was some hope that the plan to begin allowing limited fan attendance on a trial basis at the beginning of October was a sign of things returning to normal. However, with coronavirus cases on the rise again in the United Kingdom, the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport has announced the ban on fans attending sporting events will continue, possibly through the first few months of 2021.
With this announcement, the talk of the Premier league providing financial support to the EFL has become more important. Though this is a complex issue that will likely require intense negotiation, many are acknowledging the importance of the EPL supporting the EFL in their time of need. Jürgen Klopp, a man who has never been shy about expressing his belief that the haves should support the have-nots, was among those who spoke out in support of this proposed financial assistance.
“In general, people in a better position should help people in a less good position, 100 percent,” Klopp said.
He did acknowledge that the split between the EPL and EFL makes things more difficult than they are in other football pyramids throughout Europe.
“I don’t understand the structure 100%,” Klopp admitted. “In Germany you have Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, so they have to share the problems so that makes things slightly easier.”
However, there can be no mistaking that despite the complications created by the structure at the top of the English football pyramid and the financial losses of all clubs in the midst a global pandemic, Klopp believes the Premier League still has an obligation to provide the support the EFL needs to keep afloat.
“There isn’t a general answer. People in a better position should help other people but the position in this moment for all clubs is not really easy. I don’t know how the government finds time to think about that, but I get it 100%. So yes, football should try to help themselves, ourselves, however we should say it. I agree 100%.”
Klopp’s stance here shouldn’t come as a shock to any who are familiar with his political leanings and desire for the fortunate to help the less fortunate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not encouraging to hear him speak out on it anyway. It is yet another example of how Klopp is a perfect match for LFC on so many different levels.
Also encouraging is that Klopp is not the only manager calling for the Premier League to provide financial assistance to the lower levels of English football. Earlier this week, Chelsea paid for Barnsley’s coronavirus tests ahead of their 3rd round Carabao Cup match, which manager Frank Lampard called “a sign of a club in the Premier League doing the right thing.” Lampard then went on to highlight the importance of the Premier League lending a helping hand.
“I think it’s important that the Premier League as a collective looks at supporting the EFL, the leagues below, and grassroots football, absolutely,” said Lampard. “I started and a lot of the young players started in Sunday league football. I’ve managed in the Championship. I understand a lot of the difficulties clubs are having, so I think there certainly can be a conversation.”
Hopefully Klopp and Lampard, managers of two “Big Six” clubs, openly speaking out about helping the EFL get through these difficult times will provide extra pressure on the Premier League to find a way to provide the much needed financial assistance. A thriving football pyramid is good for everyone involved, and nobody wants to see clubs folding and more people losing their jobs as a result of this pandemic that has already caused so much heartache and hardship around the world.