The Football Association is facing anger at proposals to spend the lion’s share of a £3million women’s game bail-out on Covid-19 tests instead of club handouts.
Women’s Super League and Championship teams are expecting to be told next week that £2.3m of the Government pot may be needed to fill a black hole for a new twice-weekly testing regime.
Anthony Kleanthous, the Barnet chairman, branded the plans “terrible”, saying the plan will effectively help support wealthy Premier League-backed clubs “through the back door”.
However, the governing body – which has made 124 redundancies due to an imminent £300m deficit caused by the pandemic – is understood to have concluded it has no choice but to spend some of the Government loan on increased testing. “There is no bottomless pit, and we simply can’t complete the season without the testing,” one source close to talks said.
Proposals to leave the two tiers with a reduced pot of £700,000 for direct financial support have yet to be given the green light by Sport England, which is still finalising its audit of how all the Government’s winter support packages are set to be spent.
Telegraph Sport understands clubs will be briefed with details on Monday. Whitehall insiders claimed no knowledge of the plans on Friday night, promising that every penny of the loan package announced in November would be heavily scrutinised ahead of final sign off.
In June, the Premier League pledged more than £1m to help with the restart of the two women’s top tiers, and Kleanthous is among a host of figures to suggest the world’s richest domestic competition should again be helping out.
Kleanthous said it was particularly unfair to use the loans on testing as Premier League-backed clubs in the WSL and Championship already account for “the majority” of them because of their bigger staff numbers. “It’s giving money to the Premier League through the back door,” he said. “It’s not right. That £3m should be going to the non-Premier League clubs. But what they are saying is that it’s going to them after testing. Instead of us sharing £3m, we are sharing £700,000.”
The overall remaining package of direct help across the two tiers would be available based on needs-assessment. Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, has previously promised to discuss means-testing to ensure the nine Premier League-linked clubs in the WSL are not at an unfair advantage. Bullingham also confirmed “we’ll be having those conversations” over whether the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea will be granted access to the Women’s Super League support package.
“Nine of the top 12 clubs in the WSL are Premier League clubs and are obviously in a different financial state to the other three,” he said. “We’ve got 13 Premier League clubs in the top two divisions so they might have different requirements. We haven’t had that conversation yet but I’m sure we will.”
The FA also argued to receive the bail-out package in grants rather than loans if clubs are in “no state” to make repayments.
Women’s football was among 11 sports included in an initial £241m government rescue package announced in November, and Sport England has since been working with all of them to establish where the money will be spent. The FA is distributing a total of £28m of government funds, including £25m for the top tiers of non-league men’s football.