Cost of play-offs could be too much for smaller clubs


Last week saw Wycombe Wanderers secured promotion to the Championship via a play-off win against Oxford United. It is the first time the club will play there.

In League Two, Northampton overcame Exeter in the final, to secure a return to League One football. Both teams won the prize of promotion, and with it, a financial boost. But for the six clubs that didn’t, a financial strain has occurred.

League One and Two voted to finish the season early due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many clubs felt it was unsafe, and too much of a financial burden to not curtail the season. However, the play-offs needed to be played, and this meant that the teams that were in them after a PPG finish, would have to stump up the cash to be able to play.

There were many costs that needed to be considered. Obviously the first big loss is that these games would be played behind closed doors, meaning teams were playing matches with no matchday income. In the lower leagues, this is key.

Yes there would have been money from the TV rights, but this would have been given to them regardless of Covid or not. There is then the cost of testing. There have been a lot of figures thrown out for how much testing would cost, but estimates of around £150,000-£200,000 seem to be the most accurate. This is a lot of money for a club to spend at any time during the season, but when your income is nothing, it is a real added burden. There would also have been costs for making the stadium ‘Covid secure’, extra cleaning, and equipment to ensure security, is more that these clubs have had to pay out.

Exeter City v Northampton Town - Sky Bet League Two Play Off Final : News Photo

Photo: Getty Images

Finally, probably the biggest cost of all, un-furloughing staff. The governments furlough scheme has been a blessing for football clubs, who have managed to use it to pay all the staff that work at the club, not only the players, but the coaching staff, media teams, club shop staff, the list goes on. But clubs would have had to dig deep into their pockets to pay the few weeks wages as everyone needed returned to work, adding to the already large bill of getting the play-offs done.

With all this combined, and the fact the income streams have dried up, it is no wonder clubs voted to end the season early, even teams like Port Vale, who were on the cusp of reaching the play-offs, voted to curtail, and end their chances of a promotion. You can only assume that finances played their part.

I do worry for these clubs next year, it would be a shame to see smaller clubs, like Cheltenham, who have defied expectations, struggle next season due to the financial loss of competing in the play-offs. I suppose only time will tell.

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