League One clubs face £1m bill to play on, warns Rotherham United chairman

Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart estimates that it would cost League One clubs ‘between £500,000 and £1m’ to play out the 2019-20 campaign.
Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart.Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart.
Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart.

In the Championship, clubs are pressing ahead with plans to finish the season on the pitch – and most are due to return to small-scale training today.

But several are known to have reservations about the realistic prospect of fulfilling commitments in 2019-20 .

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While League Two clubs voted to abandon their season earlier this month, the fate of League One remains up in the air.

The majority of clubs in the third tier want the season to end now and be decided using the unweighted points per game system proposed by the EFL.

But a rebel gang of six clubs – led by Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony – want to finish the season behind closed doors.

Millers chairman Stewart harbours doubts about the likelihood of the season being able to conclude, with the costs involved in testing players and staff for coronavirus and the total lack of income for clubs making it too prohibitive in his eyes.

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Speaking on TV on Sunday, Tranmere Rovers chairman and ex-FA chief executive Mark Palios warned clubs that the financial impact of Covid-19 could be even greater than the £200m ‘black hole’ that EFL chief Rick Parry has referenced.

Huddersfield Town chairman Phil Hodgkinson has also issued a stark warning regarding the future of EFL clubs, voicing fears that up to 60 could go out of business over the next 12 months if a blueprint for the game’s survival is not agreed.

Stewart said: “The thing that is hitting now is that there is no revenue coming in and expenses are going out. We have compensation in regards to furlough, but where we are now, if League One decided they want to come back, we are told there is about £150,000 per club to pay for testing gear.

“Then, you have to take the players off furlough for training and look at the next games. It will not only be soulless, but moneyless in the regard that everyone will be suffering.

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“If you are playing away, you have got the expenses. What type of hotel do you pay? Do they charge you a premium?

“It is all gauging up to be an expensive continuation of football.

“I do believe that there is a strong belief in League One that they do want to abandon and call it a day and then pick up the cudgels next season. The weight of the money outweighs trying to fulfil the season.

“They have estimated that if we were to fulfil the fixtures for this season that the training would cost £150,000 per club. That is an additional cost if you complete the season.

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“Then, there’s the loss of revenue with there being no fans. To complete the season, I think it will cost between £500,000 and £1m per club. It stops you a bit in your tracks.

“If you are seventh from bottom or ninth from the top, you might be saying: ‘hang on, what do I get out of this?’ and the answer is debt.”

Clarity regarding the future of the League One season could arrive this week with clubs expressing their preferences to the EFL.

If the season is brought to an early conclusion using the unweighted points-per-game system proposed, Rotherham – in second place – would be promoted automatically.

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With acknowledged self-interest, Stewart added: “I’ve spoken to Rick Parry twice. They (EFL) have not got an easy job. They are obviously being bombarded. You have got 23 clubs who all have a view about what is what – whether you are near the bottom or top.

“My opening sentence to him was: “I am obviously biased because we are second to the top.’

“(But) Thirty-six games out of 44 is around 79 per cent of the fixtures. I think there was a balanced view of that.

“I think there has been a little bit of bitterness – more than expected in League One.”