‘I totally sympathise’ - Prime minister mentions Norwich City as he discusses football’s financial challenges

Prime minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Londo

Prime minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Norwich City were mentioned by prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons this lunchtime, as the financial challenges facing football clubs were discussed during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Norwich-born James Wild, a Conservative MP who took the North West Norfolk seat at the 2019 election, revealed that he had been among the government taskforce at Carrow Road on Saturday.

He saw 1,000 season ticket holders return as the Canaries drew 2-2 with Preston North End in one of just two Championship matches allowed to welcome back spectators as part of a pilot project amid the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

That was due to build towards the wider welcoming of fans back to matches in October, with reduced capacities and strict health and safety guidelines in place, but those plans have now been paused for potentially as long as six months as the government strengthens social restrictions due to the Covid-19 infection rate being on the rise again as the world continues to wait for a vaccine.

The North West Norfolk MP said: “On Saturday I was at Norwich City’s match as part of the pilot to let fans back into football and it’s disappointing that the re-opening has now been postponed.

“With King’s Lynn Town, Mansfield and many other clubs and sports facing a real threat to their viability with no fans coming into the grounds, will my right honourable friend urgently look at a sports recovery fund to ensure their viability and their place at the heart of our local communities?”

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Mr Wild, a former Norwich School pupil, mentioned Mansfield Town due to Mansfield MP Ben Bradley having asked a similar question in relation to football earlier during PMQs.

In response, he received a similar answer from the prime minister, who said: “It grieves me to see football clubs - Mansfield, others, Norwich City - not able to go back in the way that they want to right now and I totally sympathise with him and with the fans.

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“I really do wish we did not have to do this now, but the best way to get through it is to follow the advice and suppress the virus.

The 1,000 fans that got to see Norwich play against Preston will be the last supporters to watch Can

The 1,000 fans that got to see Norwich play against Preston will be the last supporters to watch Canaries live for a long period. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

“But in the meantime my right honourable friend, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport (Oliver Dowden), is looking actively at solutions to help Norwich City and other clubs.”

City are yet to comment on Tuesday’s announcement but the EFL this afternoon did release a statement, pleading for financial support from the government.

It’s understood the Canaries were bracing for a loss of expected income of around £12million from having to play games behind closed doors but that is set to grow with every game that the Canaries have to play without spectators, with further rebates due to season ticket holders, of which there are around 22,000.

Each home match last season represented around £1.5million in revenue but that figure will be lower as a Championship club and City are in a relatively stable financial state, particularly when compared to many other clubs who were already in precarious financial positions prior to the pandemic.

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