Accrington owner says saving club is priority over fulfilling fixtures

‘We don’t want to spend money on games that don’t matter… it’d leave us in financial DISASTER’: Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt insists saving the club is the priority over fulfilling fixtures with £500,000 set to be lost if games are played behind closed doors

  • The Football League are likely to attempt to try and complete the current season
  • Accrington Stanley owner believes the best solution would be for season to end 
  • If remaining games played behind closed doors, Accrington will lose £500,000
  • Andy Holt says it would leave the club in financial disaster at start of next season
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

For a long time, Andy Holt was a voice crying in the wilderness. The owner of Accrington Stanley warned and warned that the financial model of English football was broken and that a reckoning was coming. No one foresaw the advent of the coronavirus, of course, but its devastating impact has brutally exposed the recklessness in the top tiers of the English game.

Accrington has a claim to be the best-run club in the lower leagues but even those clubs run with fiscal prudence have not been spared. 

After the Premier League re-iterated on Friday its determination to complete the current season, it increased the likelihood the Football League will attempt to do the same. And Holt acknowledges that stance may force him to choose between fulfilling fixtures and saving his club.

Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt believes the best solution is for the season to end now

If games are to go ahead for the rest of the season, they look set to be behind closed doors

Accrington were 17th in League One when football was suspended, eight points clear of the relegation zone, and Holt believes the best of a series of bad solutions is to end the lower league season now and either freeze positions as they are or use a Pools Panel-type system to determine the results of the fixtures that could not be completed.

He says that if Stanley are forced to complete their remaining 11 fixtures, all behind-closed-doors and so without gate receipts, it will cost them half a million pounds and leave them staring at financial disaster next season when games may still be played without spectators and solidarity payments will already have been eaten away by advance payments made this season.

‘As things stand, it will cost us half a million pounds to finish this season, if that’s what the EFL decide they want to do,’ Holt says. 

‘I would rather use that money on beginning to rebuild football next season instead of spending three more months now watching it die.

‘We will do whatever we have to do to survive. If it is a choice for us between playing dead rubber fixtures or surviving, we will be surviving. The main risk for Accrington Stanley is for the EFL to force us to spend money we have not got on games that do not matter to us. 

‘If everyone is playing kids, it will be a farce anyway. Freezing the season as it is now would be more representative of the season than teams playing against a load of kids to complete it.

Accrington will lose £500,000 if they are forced to complete fixtures behind closed doors

‘I am already thinking about next season. For us, next season could be the bigger disaster. Next season, we are going to have less income and lower crowds and we will have used our cash reserves on playing dead rubbers. The sensible thing is for us to hibernate now and pay the players up. We can survive that way.

‘There is no easy solution. In an ideal world, we would finish the season and I accept that for some clubs who are chasing promotion, it will not seem fair if we freeze the season now. 

‘But it is not fair that we have got this virus to put up with and that thousands of people in this country have already died because of it and so many families are suffering.’

Because Holt has always insisted on Stanley existing within its means – it has one of the lowest wage bills of any club in the four divisions – they are not haemorrhaging as much money as some in the lockdown. All but four of their staff are on furlough and they are ensuring that all are being paid on time and in full.

But things will change if the season resumes without spectators and match-day revenue. It will cost Stanley £100,000 to bring players and support staff out of furlough, £300,000 for two months at full wages and another £100,000 for coach travel and hotel bills. The club cannot afford to take that kind of hit.

The club operate within their means but cannot afford to take a hit from lost gate receipts

‘I hope it doesn’t come to this but maybe it will get to the point where we are losing points because we have not fielded a team,’ Holt says. ‘Even if that gets us relegated, my job is to make sure Accrington Stanley stays afloat. That is my first responsibility, ahead of any responsibility I have to the Football League. Ask Bury fans about that.

‘I hope a solution can be found. The EFL has to do something to make up the gap and save clubs like ours on the costs of playing without fans. Perhaps they could do a deal with the television companies where they show extra games on other platforms and earn more revenue to be shared among the clubs that way.

‘I come from a council house. At this club, we live on what we have got. That has always been our principle. You live within your means. That is our golden rule. Maybe it is a northern way of being. If there is a risk, my way of dealing with it is to conserve cash for the storm ahead. One way or another, we will get through this.’

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