Walsall Football Club and Covid-19

On Saturday 19 September 2020, I visited Walsall Football Club with Sir Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Opposition, and Labour’s West Midlands Mayoral candidate, Liam Byrne MP. We spoke to the Chief Executive Officer of Walsall FC Stefan Gamble and Chairman Leigh Pomlett about the club’s community work during the pandemic and their efforts to make the stadium Covid-secure for fans. The club have been working hard to implement social distancing guidelines for fans so that they can safely return when stadiums reopen. 

The pandemic has had a severe impact on football clubs like Walsall FC, who have seen a large loss in revenue owing to the continued closure of stadiums. In the second half of the 2019/2020 season alone, English Football League clubs lost around £50m in gate revenue by playing matches behind closed doors. Without additional support, many football clubs will be unable to survive this long-term loss of revenue. 

With Leigh Pomlett (left)

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday 22 September 2020 that the government would be abandoning its plans to ease lockdown restrictions on certain sports events owing to a recent rise in cases. It is therefore crucial that further financial assistance is provided for clubs like Walsall FC. The Culture Secretary has confirmed that the government are currently in discussions with the Premier League to identify ways to keep football clubs afloat during the pandemic. 

With Stefan Gamble (right)

On Wednesday 30 September 2020 during an Urgent Question to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston MP, answered a question about financial support for football clubs and said:

“We have had constructive conversations with the Premier League and the EFL, which recognise their responsibility. They are at the top of the pyramid, and it is perfectly fair and reasonable that those with the broadest shoulders carry the biggest burden. They understand and accept that, and we are working on the details at the moment.”

Football clubs are at the heart of our communities and the government must act now to ensure their long-term survival. It is also important for the government to explore ways to safely allow a reduced number of fans back into stadiums. During our visit to Walsall FC, we saw the fantastic job the club have done to help make the Bescot Stadium Covid-secure. They are a huge asset to our community – I will continue to put pressure on the government to ensure Walsall FC is provided with the support it needs.