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22 Sep, 2022 11:01

English clubs would consider earlier matches to cut energy costs – survey

Over half of the 40 football clubs surveyed would contemplate starting their matches at lunchtime
English clubs would consider earlier matches to cut energy costs – survey

An online survey has found that English Football League (EFL) clubs would be willing to hold lunchtime kick-offs at weekends to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis which is afflicting the UK. 

A survey by football reform group Fair Game found that 63% of the 40 clubs asked – which included 12 EFL teams – would consider earlier kick-offs for league matches on a weekend to reduce their energy bills if given permission, and therefore take advantage of diminishing daylight heading into winter.

Furthermore, 50% of clubs surveyed would ponder the same measures for FA Cup fixtures.

Clubs overall rated their concern about the cost-of-living crisis at seven out of 10, with this figure rising to eight out of 10 for those in League Two, which is the fourth tier of English professional football. 

As a result of the crisis, which has brought extortionately high gas and electric bills to households and businesses, 40 clubs are mulling whether they should halt stadium improvements while 38% are preparing to review their non-playing staff budgets.

The publication of the survey comes at a time when Premier League clubs are readying further discussions on a financial distribution model to support the EFL and the rest of the English football pyramid.

Dubbed the ‘New Deal For Football’, it is expected to contain a new system of merit-based payments to clubs in the second-tier Championship and alterations to so-called parachute payments.

On Wednesday at a shareholders’ meeting in London, however, the Premier League’s 20 giants still weren’t expected to sign off on it as Fair Game’s chief executive Niall Couper stressed that the results of the survey underlined why action is urgently needed.

“The results paint a very bleak future for football outside the top echelons of the game,” Couper said, predicting that the cost-of-living crisis “could well be the death knell for the hard-working community clubs lower down the pyramid.”

Couper called lower-league football clubs the “heartbeat of their communities”, but claimed they are currently “in intensive care” with Premier League clubs “at best going to offer a sticking plaster.”

“They have had decades to address the problem and they should stand aside,” Couper demanded. 

“It is now up to the Government to intervene. The recent fan-led Review set up by the Conservative Party revealed the financial flow within the game, and the governance that sits behind it is broken.

“We were promised leveling up, instead we could see the leveling of football stadia across the country with decades of history and tradition wiped off the map.

“The government needs to deliver on its promise of an independent regulator now. A regulator that can oversee football’s financial flow. Without it the pyramid of our national game will crumble,” he concluded.

While the UK government has pledged to aid businesses with rising energy costs, it remains unclear as to whether this will benefit lower league football clubs or how long support will last.

Though her predecessor Boris Johnson and ex-Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries both backed implementing an independent regulator in the English game, RTE says it is understood that there is growing optimism among clubs in the top flight that plans for this will be watered down or axed altogether on the watch of the UK’s new prime minister, Liz Truss.