The Premier League and English Football League have received written demands from MPs to "stop squabbling and come to an agreement" over the game’s bailout "fiasco".
Richard Masters, the top tier chief executive, and Rick Parry, the EFL’s chairman, have been ordered by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee to provide weekly updates until the saga is resolved.
“We are losing patience," says Julian Knight, the committee’s chairman. "Fans have waited a long time for a solution that would safeguard their clubs but all they can see is squabbling at the top of the game. Football and its followers deserve better."
The letters were sent out to both competitions 24 hours after the Government announced a £300million rescue package of loans across 11 sports will be distributed within weeks as ministers also confirmed the door was "ajar" for the potential return of spectators by Christmas.
The Rugby Football League, Football Association and RFU all welcomed the Government support as ministers moved instead to ramp up pressure on the Premier League to finally agree a package for the English Football League. "We are doing everything we can to encourage Rick (Parry) and Richard (Masters) to come to a reasonable arrangement," Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister, said.
Government has received assurances that a package for the footballing elite is close, with the EFL hopeful for a package of £50million grants for League One and Two, with a potential loan package for the Championship.
However, Mr Knight, who heard evidence from the two competitions a week ago, said in his letter to Masters: "We are disappointed that you have not yet come to an agreement that will ensure the survival of football clubs through the current pandemic. There is enough money in the game to save football clubs but we are beginning to doubt whether there is enough leadership to make that happen. We urge you to stop squabbling and come to an agreement. Fans have been waiting too long. We expect, and the fans deserve, better."
The DCMS Committee, he said, "made it clear before the 2019 election" that if the football authorities failed to reform, or concluded that a statutory framework was necessary to reform, "we would recommend that the Government immediately brought forward legislation to ensure a fully independent system of football licensing and regulation".
"There is now a pressing need for the Government to consider acting," Mr Knight added. "The current fiasco underlines the need for change, but the immediate task must be to secure ailing football clubs." Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, also reaffirmed this week the Government’s commitment to pursuing a fan-led review of governance.
"The Committee would like to be kept updated on any and all discussions on the survival of football clubs through Covid-19 and beyond," Mr Knight added in his letter. "That includes discussions between the Premier League and the EFL; between the Premier League and the Government, including Ministers, officials and special advisors; and within the Premier League…. We would also be grateful for your assistance in ensuring that the Committee is updated on a weekly basis. As I indicated during the evidence session, we intend to publish these updates on the Committee website. We will write again in seven days."
In a statement, Mr Knight branded the situation a "fiasco" which, he said, "isn’t about the lack of money, but lack of leadership". “We’re putting the current leaders of the Premier League and the EFL on notice," he added. "We want to be kept in the loop about every discussion, every meeting, every call, every email, to save clubs at risk. Nothing should be withheld from the Committee, and so that fans can see what’s going on, we’ll make these updates public."