League 1 director warns against closed-door games

A lower-league director has warned that the majority of clubs outside Super League will be opposed to the Championship and League 1 seasons returning behind closed doors.
Former Cronulla CEO Damian Irvine has been helping behind the scenes at Hunslet for several months. And he insists that because of their good financial management the League 1 side may not even need to apply for a portion of the £16 million Government loan.
However, Irvine has told League Express that the notion of Championship and League 1 teams playing in front of empty stadiums makes little sense.
He warned: “In the short-term, the level below the top tier is simply not sustainable and games cannot be played behind closed doors.
“The full liability of player wages is the biggest outgoing of all the clubs and to have that without any casual trade and revenue just does not fly in the short-to-medium-term.
“Behind closed doors rugby at the lower levels cannot happen and the majority of Championship and League 1 clubs would support that view. Super League are broadcast-funded but there is no value in those other divisions.”
Irvine also said he believed that up to a dozen clubs were facing serious financial jeopardy prior to the confirmation that the Government had loaned the sport £16 million, before spelling out the precarious nature of lower-league finances.
“A negative cashflow alteration of between £15,000 to £80,000 is enough for a good portion of lower-league clubs to have serious insolvency problems,” he said.
“Those clubs that are overspending in a bid to be promoted are in the worst position in a crisis. That’s where some clubs are genuinely at.
“Clubs were already in danger from any revenue fluctuation prior to COVID. By definition I’m talking about probably a dozen clubs that were seriously affected here; Government furloughing – which is one of the greatest peacetime packages to help businesses and these loans that have been secured – that has saved almost a dozen clubs, I would wager.”
Irvine also assured Hunslet supporters that they themselves, however, were on a sound footing financially.
“Clubs that have carefully budgeted their projected revenues in a conservative fashion, such as Hunslet, are well-placed with the continued support of their members still helping them see this through,” he said.
“Hunslet may not even need to accept any loans at this stage and they won’t have to in the short-to-medium-term, that’s for sure. Long before the COVID pandemic was in anyone’s vocabulary, Hunslet were preparing on the need to be frugal because of the upcoming TV deal and the risks associated with it. Those that were preparing for 2021 in a conservative fashion are well-placed.”