Our football pyramid will crumble if the Premier League doesn’t dig deep

IT’S said parents are only ever as happy as their least happy child. It’s time the Premier League start feeling the same way about the clubs in our lower leagues.

This week we learned that more than TEN English ­Football League and National League clubs face going bust now fans can no longer return to the stadiums.

Proud teams like Charlton — a Premier League side until 2007 — Wigan, who won the FA Cup only seven years ago, Oldham and Southend could all go to the wall. Coronavirus strikes again.

The promise of 1,000 fans being allowed into EFL games next week offered a glimmer of hope. But following Boris Johnson’s new Covid rules, that has now been snatched away.

With nothing being taken at the turnstiles there is next to no money going into these clubs’ accounts.

They don’t get the gigantic pots of TV cash; they don’t get international airlines paying £400million to sponsor them like Man City did with Etihad; they don’t earn £175m as Liverpool did on their way to winning the title.

The Premier League wage bill for the 2018-19 season was around £2.9billion. One per cent of that (£29m) would go some way to solving the problem.

The whole edifice of English football is not for nothing known as The Pyramid.

Most of their income depends on us fans getting off our backsides and going to actual stadiums to watch matches. And in the good times we do. In our droves.

Wherever I travel in the world I talk to football fans, and the bit of the conversation I enjoy most is when I tell them that our second tier — the Championship — is (in normal times) the third most well-attended in Europe.

I also tell them, as far down as our fourth tier — League Two — thousands also go to games.

The vast majority of these clubs have a century or more’s worth of love and passion woven in their fabric.

And I often think the passion of the supporters of these clubs might even be worth a bit more than those right at the top of the pyramid.

Think about it. If someone tells you they’re a fan of Man City, what do you think?

Don’t get me wrong: I know plenty of devout City fans who, even if they don’t go to matches, are true ­supporters who feel things as keenly as the craziest of us.

But, unfairly probably, when someone tells me they support City, a bit of me thinks, ‘Oh, do you really? Or have you just been along for a nice little ride? Must be nice to have bagged those titles.’

Then let’s say you meet someone who’s a big fan of Aldershot. You don’t need to spend a second wondering whether they’re for real. They’re hardly in it for the glamour and glory, are they?

That passion IS football and the whole enterprise would be poorer without it. The game in this country stands on the shoulders of every player and every fan who has turned out for these clubs since the century before last.

All Premier League clubs have players whose ­talent have been developed in part by the kind of clubs that are now in danger.

These elite players may have started out at smaller clubs or had the benefit of loan spells honing their skills playing for them.

So there is debt to be paid — literally and morally — by those who benefit the most from this and can afford it — the Premier League clubs.

The haves urgently need to help the have-nots out.

It’s not even as if they’d have to dig ­particularly deep; what counts as relatively little to the ­Premier League clubs would be the difference between life and death for so many lower down the pecking order.

I can’t believe the Premier League clubs won’t see that it’s now down to them to help save the soul of our ­national game.

Yes, Premier League clubs will say they have problems of their own.

Their finance chiefs will point to how their balance sheets are in the red and they can’t even afford the £300k a week they’re paying whatever superstar player they simply HAD to have.

And yes, they’re suffering from this silent stadium syndrome too — they’re used to hovering up millions a week from ticket sales to fans who now look unlikely to return until next year.

Everyone is on their uppers. But we have to keep this world alive. The whole edifice of English football is not for nothing known as The Pyramid.

I’m no engineer, but I understand the beauty of the structure of a pyramid, with a rock solid wide base functioning as the most stable of foundations for the pinnacle to reach into the sky.

Well, football’s foundations are crumbling, and we need to put that right as a matter of urgency.

I can’t believe the Premier League clubs won’t see that it’s now down to them to help save the soul of our ­national game. Never has there been a more vital moment to show us they care.

My kids aren’t into football, but I live in hope that one day they’ll produce children who are.

And I hope I don’t find myself taking my grandkids to a match and telling them about what football was like in the olden days, when there were more than just a dozen or so mega-clubs to support.

When there were hundreds of clubs across the country, big and small, and every weekend you’d see their fans, scarves stretched across rear windscreens, criss-crossing the country to see their beloved teams.

GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL exclusive@the-sun.co.uk

Source: Read Full Article