FAW Statement on Return to Football

By Ronald Bridges

FAW Chief Executive Jonathan Ford statement

Welsh football battling 'dire situation' due to Covid-19, says FAW chief Jonathan Ford

Football Association of Wales (FAW) chief executive Jonathan Ford has admitted the game in Wales is battling a "dire situation" because of Covid-19.

Ford says the FAW is facing a "massive" financial loss because of the pandemic.

He is concerned for the future of clubs if fans cannot attend matches and has urged the Welsh Government to ease the situation by allowing supporters to return.

The Welsh Government has been asked to comment.

Ford was speaking after the FAW confirmed new Fifa grants worth more than £1m to support Welsh clubs, though he admitted the money alone would not be enough and called for support from the Welsh Government.

"We are having to raid the piggy bank," Ford said.

"It's been a really dire 2020, let's be honest. We started this year hoping we would be participating in Euro 2020. Of course that's not gone away - we are hoping we will be celebrating that in 2021.

"But up and down this country, whether you are playing in tier one, our Premier League, or all the way through to grassroots, it's been a very dire situation."

The FAW's income has dropped dramatically because coronavirus has seen international games cancelled or played behind closed doors.

As Wales senior men's side prepare to play three matches in empty stadiums this month, there is little prospect of fans returning.

"Without crowds, it's a massive dent in the FAW's finances," Ford told Radio Wales Sport.

"There are (also) increased costs of us operating, so yes it's a worrying situation for the FAW. I am working my hardest with the team to ensure we can survive this.

"We are having to make some very difficult decisions, but I am pleased to say our men's and women's teams are playing.

"They bring in the majority of the money. They bring in about 90% and cost us about 60%. Domestic football brings in about 10% of the money, it costs us about 40%.

"We have reserves but we are having to strip away at some of those reserves in order to survive ourselves."

Wales' senior men's side have not played in front of a crowd since the win over Hungary in November 2019 which sealed their place at Euro 2020

Ford says international matches are a must for the FAW to survive and is desperate for Euro 2020 - which has been delayed until next summer - to take place.

"Clearly it's going to be different than anybody envisaged but we just hope we can get through this pandemic together," he added.

The 2019-20 domestic season was halted in March, while the 2020-21 campaign began last month behind closed doors.

Ford says the FAW started the new season in the "hopeful knowledge that things were going in the right direction" regarding Covid-19 and the possible return of fans.

But with coronavirus cases back on the rise, Ford concedes supporters are unlikely to be back "for many months to come".

"Our clubs are absolutely reliant on that matchday income," he said.

"Without that it's going to be extremely difficult.

"We (the FAW) have had to use furlough. We are going to make a massive and quite significant loss this year as a result of Covid-19, but I am pleased to say this (Fifa) grant, the first thing we did regardless of those losses, is say 'no, we need to help our clubs'."

Nevertheless, Ford says the Fifa money - £750,000 for the top four tiers of the men's game and £375,000 for the two highest tiers in women's football - will not "go anywhere near" to making up for the absence of crowds.

"We'll need to find other solutions," he said. "We really need, all of us in football, to campaign (to) the Welsh government to ensure that money flows through, as it has in England, to the game.

"Without that, it's going to be a dire situation and I worry for football in this country at a domestic level."

Ford says the FAW are working with the Welsh government in a bid to ensure clubs survive.

"We have to be in a situation where we try to find the right solutions, because if we can't finish our season, it's not looking pretty," he said.

"I think the economic model isn't good without fans in the stand. The bottom line is the clubs need money in order to operate.

"We are in a situation where, if the Welsh government will allow us, we can do social distancing in a lot of our grounds.

"We have been campaigning (to) the government to allow us to do this for some time."

Ford says Welsh football has proved has proved it is a "safe sport".

"Our Premier League is back, our Women's Premier League is back, and we are doing very well compared to others to ensure those protocols are in place and we are not spreading the virus," he said.

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