The Government is expected to announce which sports will benefit from a reported £300 million coronavirus rescue package on Thursday.
Elite football – the Premier League and English Football League – is set to miss out along with cricket, according to reports, but both rugby codes and horse racing are among those expected to receive financial assistance.
The Government has repeatedly said professional men’s football is wealthy enough to support itself through the crisis, hence its exclusion, but the EFL – whose clubs have been badly hit by the loss of matchday revenue – is yet to agree terms of a bail-out with the Premier League.
Football as a whole will not completely miss out on state funding, however, with the Women’s Super League reportedly set to be named as one of the beneficiaries. The National League – the competition immediately below the EFL – has already received support to enable it to begin its 2020-21 season.
In all, it is believed 11 sports will receive funding in packages made up of grants and loans, with basketball and netball among the others to be included in the rescue.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston has said he will be providing an update on the matter in the House of Commons on Thursday and the announcement is expected in the afternoon.
Much of the professional sports sector has been left in a parlous state by the pandemic with spectators not permitted at events since action resumed post-lockdown.
There had been hope of a limited return of crowds from October but those plans were scrapped, despite some successful pilot events, due to a rise in Covid-19 infections.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday his Government was working to get fans back into venues but, despite reports of a Christmas target date, was unable to offer a timeframe.
“I understand the frustration over fans and we hope to get crowds back in the ground as soon as possible,” he said.
Premier League football has coped relatively well due to its lucrative domestic and overseas TV deals and there is a feeling within Government it should support the lower divisions.
Negotiations between the Premier League and EFL to find a solution have been difficult but remain ongoing.
Last week the EFL said a “significant step forward” had been taken with regards to an outlined £50m package of grants and loans for League One and Two clubs yet there is still no formal agreement.
Asked about the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson said: “We don’t want any football team to go out of business as a result of this pandemic and we’re doing everything we can.”
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