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Block on fans is ‘devastating’

FOOTBALL clubs have warned they face ruin as they prepare for six more months without spectators and with the government reluctant to bail the sport out.

Prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday confirmed the proposed return of some fans to sports venues will not be allowed on October 1 as originally planned and suggested the latest Covid restrictions may remain in place until the spring.

That has heightened fears of clubs going out of business despite ministers urging the Premier League to finance a recovery package.

Forest Green chairman Dale Vince said ‘many clubs will not be able to withstand’ the loss of fan revenue while Fleetwood boss Joey Barton (pictured) claimed it was ‘just wrong’ to have top-flight players earning up to £500,000-a-week while lower league sides were struggling to keep the electricity on.

‘An Armageddon is about to happen,’ Barton warned. ‘We have seen Macclesfield go, Bury go last year and we have seen Wigan in a tight spot. A lot of clubs, if we don’t have fans back in stadiums which doesn’t look like is going to happen, are going to be severely hampered if not forced to the wall by some of these decisions. It really scares me. People are getting discarded and made redundant and clubs are being closed.’

Johnson yesterday refused to commit to a package similar to the £1.5billion granted to the arts and culture while, in the face of government pressure to finance a rescue package for the entire sport, the Premier League claimed supporters’ continued absence was having a ‘devastating impact’ on its members.

‘Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them,’ it said. ‘Last season, Premier League clubs suffered £700m in losses and at present our national game is losing more than £100m per month.’

Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney is also appealing for government aid after revealing empty stadiums for forthcoming internationals will cause losses of £106m.

‘Without support we’re in danger of clubs at the heart of communities across England, disappearing forever,’ he said.