Football League club chairman: EFL must suspend player wages

By Sports Editor Steve Scott and Sports Producer Dan Salisbury-Jones

A football chairman says the only way to safeguard lower league clubs’ survival is to stop paying players while matches are suspended due to coronavirus.

Scunthorpe’s Peter Swann is proposing the radical solution and is calling on the EFL to sanction it.

“I feel if the league is suspended then the players wages should be suspended until the resumption of full training and a resumption date confirmed.

"The players then need to approach the PFA, EFL and FA for support during the suspension time.”

Swann says he’s come to this conclusion because he is dismayed at what is happening to some clubs and how the the game’s leadership is lacking.

“It should not be the clubs who are asked to support the football industry and ultimately risking their futures during the shutdown of football, it needs to be the governing bodies and they should be leading from the front, sadly I believe we are lacking any decisive leadership at any level.”

Football is suspended across the country. Credit: PA

Swann believes without financial help, many clubs could go under.

“What must not happen during this pandemic is for a Football League club to go out of business, no matter how the owners have run their club or what we think, we cannot let this happen.”

Without games, Swann says there is no match-day income and eventually his club will run out of money, he told ITV News: “I just want to save the club, I want to keep the club going.

“If we’re playing behind closed doors there’s no money but the players would be on full pay. It would be very, very difficult for us to finish the season.”

Funds have been released to ease the lower league’s cashflow crisis but this was money due at a later date anyway, so in Swann’s view is just storing up trouble.

"It’s money we are due in the future from the competition, loans have also been offered, but all this does is put us in more debt and kick the can further down the road and it’s not extra money.”

He’s concerned about the long-term future too. “The one common denominator in clubs surviving is the managing of player wages, in a nutshell that is it.

"If we can suspend players wages we give ourselves a fighting chance of survival, if we can get a 50% reduction in wages and utilise the furlough scheme we can maybe just get through the next few months, that however is easier said than done and what of next season?”

Peter Swann is the chairman of Scunthorpe. Credit: PA

Swann believes a collapse of the whole football pyramid is a distinct possibility.

“If clubs go out of business, then players will get nothing and once one club goes, what is stopping all clubs going down that route?”

Swann thinks the majority of clubs in the lower leagues need urgent help from the EFL.

“What I ask is for the governing bodies to take the responsibility, allow clubs to suspend player contracts with players receiving the furlough maximum wage (Paid by the clubs), only until we are back playing and then the contracts are restarted at full wage. If this is behind closed doors clubs will need to have further help.

"If all league one and two clubs could do the above, we can get through this and at least give us all a fighting chance. We must get through this together and keep the football league intact.”

Swann has circulated his views to a WhatsApp group of lower league chairman and was hoping to get some sort of consensus, but is yet to formally approach EFL bosses.