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O'Neill: Clubs Could Struggle to Get Back Up and Running For New Season
Friday, 10th Jul 2020 13:39

It’s hoped League One and League Two will start their 2020/21 seasons in September, however, Town general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill says that as things stand some clubs are going to struggle financially to get back up and running for that proposed return to action. The Blues players have been told to expect to get back to training later this month.

Currently the season is pencilled in to start on September 12th, however, the 2019/20 campaign was curtailed at League One and Two level due to clubs being unable to afford to stage games behind closed doors and O’Neill says that remains a concern.

Even if there are fans present at the start of the campaign their numbers will be limited which won’t help clubs desperately short of cash. The cost of coronavirus testing - £150 each - will also be a strain on sides far from rich in normal circumstances.

“It’s always been something that’s at the back of my mind, we’re not really in any different situation than we were league-wise when the vote went to cancel the season,” O’Neill said.

“It is changing daily and weekly so it could be that testing is taken off the table and it’s not required in the new season, so that’s then a very different conversation.

“It could be that stadiums are allowed to start opening and fans are allowed to start coming in. Again, that hasn’t been confirmed but it’s on the table.

“Until all of these situations and questions are answered, it’s very, very difficult for a club to understand the operational aspects.

“And every club was struggling before this situation anyway, so to add this layer of complexity on top of it, it’s incredibly difficult.”

He says that as far as he is aware there are currently no ongoing conversations involving the football authorities aimed at securing funds from either the Government or the Premier League.

“To my knowledge there isn’t a pot of money that’s coming from anywhere other than the owners of football clubs or boards of football clubs to cover those costs,” he added.

“There isn’t at the minute talk of bail-outs from the Premier League, Government or anything like that. I think that’s where you’ve got the genuine issue of administration, it is a big issue for a number of clubs.

“This is not just football, this is business across the board. There isn’t somebody there that’s going to look at bailing out a lot of clubs financially. And I think the operational costs to try and meet the current guidelines that are in place from both the Premier League and the EFL are very difficult to meet.

“But we’re in this situation where we’re fortunate enough that we’ve gone through those costs with [owner] Marcus [Evans] and he’s aware of them and we’re able to do it.

“Other clubs aren’t and other clubs are going to financially struggle to try and get that situation back up and running as quickly as possible.”

It’s hoped that some supporters will be present when 2020/21 gets under way. Currently the proposals which would allow fans to return reportedly include only one in three seats being filled, a ban on away support, toilets being closed at half-time and refreshments - potentially including alcoholic drinks - being brought to fans in their seats to avoid numbers congregating on concourses.

Supporters may be given designated arrival times and have to provide track and trace contact details.

O’Neill says that as yet there’s no confirmation that fans will be allowed back when the new season starts.

“We all want fans, you watch the games now, it’s great that we’ve got football on but it’s not the same without fans in the stadium,” he said.

“The enjoyment element of football is having supporters there to both cheer and criticise in some ways. It’s creating an atmosphere and that’s not what’s there at games at the moment.

“But it’s got to be safe to do so and we’re governed by a number of other things to make that so, and I think they are looking at it and trying to accelerate it.

“It’s a bit like the pubs opening this week, how do you control it? How do we manage that situation so it is safe for supporters to come in and watch football?

“I know a lot of people are working very hard to try and make that happen, I can’t tell you the timeframe and I wish I did know because it would make my life a lot easier.”

He says the aim is currently to get the Town squad back to Playford Road for the start of pre-season training later this month.

The return will be phased and adhering to strict guidelines which will see players initially working in small groups, arriving dressed in their training kit and leaving after sessions to shower at home with the canteen area not occupied.

“It’s moving, we’re trying to look at the end of July and the beginning of August but that’s based on a games programme starting in September,” he said.

“If that doesn’t happen in September or it moves before or after then obviously we have to adapt accordingly.

“We’re trying to work on a plan but it’s very difficult because it changes and the conversation I’m having with you now changes in seven days’ time and we have to get them back sooner or we have to get them back later. I don’t know.”

Town were due to be in Germany for their pre-season training camp this week but that was cancelled some weeks ago and O’Neill expects that any pre-season friendlies will be behind closed doors.

“Again, we’re hoping that the guidance will come back on that,” he continued. “There are different stages, one, two, three, four and five in relation to how you operate. To go through stages one and two, which are non-contact and semi-contact training, there’s a lot of protocols and policies which need to be in place.

“Then phase three looking at what the games element, whether that’s friendlies or competition games.

“So we have no idea yet what that is going to look like at this moment in time, and until we do it’s very difficult to plan a successful games programme for pre-season. But I do anticipate it being behind closed doors.”

Meanwhile, former Blues striker Brett Pitman, 32, has been released by Portsmouth following their unsuccessful play-off campaign.

Elsewhere, ex-Town academy youngster Ross Marshall has joined Stevenage, who were relegated to the National League. Centre-half or midfielder Marshall, 20, was with Maidstone having left the Blues in the summer of 2019.

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Suffolkboy added 14:22 - Jul 10
An absolute nightmare for O’N and all the clubs ;let’s hope much much more wil be resolved shortly and we can all confidently look forward to returning to watch footy and everything that involves .
Keep up the good work ITFC !

herfie added 15:14 - Jul 10
A complex and uncertain situation, where clubs are desperately searching for the way forward - and some certainty. A case of in the land of the blind, the person with one eye will reign supreme. Come on EFL, let’s find that guy! COYB😷

Woodbridgian added 21:31 - Jul 10
The new way forward is simple. Football needs a reset and unfortunately its may of taken something like Covid19 to have forced the issue. But as Dickens so simple put in Mr Micawber's famous, quote "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

Skip73 added 10:44 - Jul 11
Not to worry, The Premier League will help out with some of their Billions, oh wait........

Shawsey added 15:02 - Jul 11
The bloke is a plank.

JewellintheTown added 21:35 - Jul 11
Clubs are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. Can't afford to get back up & running without the income but the longer they take to start the season, the less money they have and more likely they never will return.
Sad days.

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