MacAnthony tells Government they have to 'start writing cheques' to help save football clubs

Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony has blasted the Government's decision to delay allowing football fans back into stadia in England - and has warned they now 'have to start writing cheques' to help clubs survive.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 12:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 12:52 pm
Darragh MacAnthony

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that October's planned reintroduction of fans to sporting events was being put on hold due to a surge in Covid-19 infections in the country, and suggested that the delay could go on for a further six months.

Crowds have not been permitted at football grounds in England since March, with the last time Posh fans were allowed into London Road being on March 7 for a win over Portsmouth.

The new season has started with clubs playing behind closed doors, but there were successful trial events at selected clubs last weekend where around 1,000 home season-ticket holders were allowed in.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Further clubs were hoping to trial it this Saturday with a move to reintroducing supporters on a regular basis, but that has now all been put on hold and Posh, who have already played three games behind closed doors at the Weston Homes Stadium this campaign, are going to have to carry on doing that for the foreseeable future.

MacAnthony is not happy at that decision, says the move is going to have 'devastating' consequences for clubs up and down the country, and called on the Government, as well as the Premier League, to offer immediate financial support.

In an interview on Sky Sports News on Wednesday morning, MacAnthony was asked what the effect is going to be if supporters continue to be locked out of grounds.

"In real terms, financially, it is devastating," said the Posh chairman. "All clubs are trying to budget as best they can, but the problem with stop-start is you can't predict what is coming down the pipe.

"We are talking millions for every football club out there, smaller clubs less so, bigger clubs more so. It is devastating news, particularly with them talking about possibly six months.

"We can't operate, and no business can operate under that.

"It is when you are putting one foot forward, suddenly you are going five steps back for me that is no way to operate.

"We have spent six or seven months now through this, we have all done our bit, we have been patient, and now we feel again that it has all been taken away from us, just when we think fans are around the corner.

"It is an absolutely devastating blow, and if the UK Government was us to do all this again for a long period of time, then it is time for them to write a cheque, and they have got to do it right now.

"Because the clubs have got to look after themselves and their fans, who have bought tickets."

He also called on the Premier League and its member clubs to step up, and made it clear Peterborough and other EFL clubs aren't just asking for a handout.

"We have been waiting for a Premier League deal, and and EFL deal for five months now, and I don't think it is on the horizon," he said.

"We are not asking for a bail-out, we are asking for money that we will pay back down the line, and we will even pay interest, but we need a deal done.

"But now the Government are restricting us again, and we know all the mitigation that is in place and what we have to do, we are making the stadiums safer.

"For me the Government needs to start writing cheques for football, and I know that sounds horrible, and people will say 'oh, it's taxpayers money', but something needs to be done.

"The money we bring into the economy and the industry, people need to remember that, and it is essential now that they stand up and if they want our fans to stay at home during games, then they are going to have to write us cheques for that."

There have been reports that the Government is more concerned about fans travelling to games and congregating outside grounds being the problem, rather than being socially distanced when sitting inside the stadium, but MacAnthony gave that short shrift.

"The argument that fans outside the stadium is the issue, I just don't get, because you are going to gave home fans back first, and they are not really going to be travelling on trains and in large crowds," he said.

"A lot of them, particularly in somewhere like Peterborough, will walk from their houses, they will drive to the stadium, so I am not quite understanding the pitch I am hearing this morning that we are worried about outside the stadium, not inside.

"There is no reason why we can't three or four thousand fans back at Peterborough United, and it should be for next Saturday and our next home game.

"We are now six or seven months down the line. I live in America, and sports teams there are getting fans back in, they are doing it and they are getting on.

"They know a lot more younger people are getting infected, there is a lot more mitigation now, we are looking after the care homes and older people, we know the people it affects.

"We are a lot more educated about this virus now, and we can't kill our economy any more, we have to get on with it now."