Saturday, October 24, 2020

COVID-19: Fleetwood chairman warns of ‘civil war’ within clubs

Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley has warned that disputes over wage deferrals could lead to a “civil war” within lower league clubs.

Meanwhile, the Fleetwood chairman has called upon football bosses to think “creatively” to ensure the survival of lower league clubs.

Clubs in the lower reaches of English football are suffering as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many say they could even go out of business.

Andy Pilley is calling for the game to think more “creatively” to come up with a solution.

“I don’t think anything is off the table. We have to evolve,” Pilley said. “Football has to think creatively and be inventive here, otherwise we run a real risk.

“We are stuck in our ways and have become very traditional, be it with dates or certain rules continuing because they always have done.

“But what is important here? It is not who achieves sporting success this year but having a healthy, long-term sustainable football pyramid.

“Our game is admired across the world and it is in a critical situation. We must find a way to save it.

“If it means pressing the reset button then that is what we must do because we don’t want to end up with another Bury or Macclesfield or Bolton situation.”

In the meantime, Pilley is hopeful that Fleetwood and the rest of the third and fourth tier will be able to benefit from a Premier League aid package.

In the longer term though, the Fleetwood chairman believes some serious changes are needed in order to guarantee the longevity and sustainability of clubs.

“If there is to be a rescue package one of the knock-on effects is that there should be a covenant and within that there needs to be a salary cap so football becomes sustainable in the lower leagues so we can focus on football and not points deductions,” he continued.

“It is worth considering a regionalised League One and League Two.

“Much as I like Gillingham, I don’t like going there on a Tuesday night, or Portsmouth on a Tuesday night. It makes no sense.”

Pilley has also warned that there is a serious danger of a “civil war” breaking out within clubs as owners and players as a result of a wage dispute.

The EFL and PFA have suggested players take a 25% wage deferral in April – but the Fleetwood chairman says it could spark an internal row at many clubs.

“I don’t know if people understand the severity of the situation,” he said. “There is a standoff brewing between owners and players that is not good for the game.

“Some owners I speak to are for not paying wages or significantly reduced ones and players will not like that.

“We don’t want civil war within our clubs, we want healthy completion that is the envy of the world.”

As for the current season, the Fleetwood chairman believes it is absolutely vital that the leagues find a way to complete their remaining games.

“For the greater good, we have to finish the season,” said Pilley.

“We have signed up to a broadcasting and sponsorship deal and we don’t know the consequences if we break that deal. The prospect of that is hideous, not just for the EFL but for the PL as well.

“We also have to finish it for the integrity of the competition. There are clubs mid-table saying ‘why should we finish it?’.

“Well, the reason is that they have already received money to compete in this league and we might only have 20% back, but I’m sure they won’t be keen on giving that backup the PL or Sky if we didn’t finish.

“What disappoints me is there is an element of self-preservation and people having their own agenda. It is a pretty duff hand but we have to play the one we have been dealt.”

For Fleetwood and the rest of the lower leagues, this is a desperate time. What we need right now is unity across the leagues – lets get through this together.

The last thing anyone wants is to see clubs like Fleetwood fold.

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