Wembley empty for match for first time, FA cuts 82 jobs

The League Two playoff final between Northampton and Exeter was the first time a game was played without fans since the rebuilt Wembley opened in 2007.

The English Football Association is set to make 82 people redundant as it faces a shortfall of 300 million pounds ($370 million) over four years due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the sport and restarting without fans in stadiums.   -  AP

As the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium held its first game without fans, the financial impact of the pandemic on English soccer was revealed by the national stadium's owners.

The English Football Association announced plans to cut 82 jobs to cover an anticipated 300 million pound ($370 million) deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic restricting crowds at games and more events being canceled.

Social distancing at stadiums meant Northampton players had to pick up the medals and trophy themselves - rather than from dignitaries - after beating Exeter in the League Two playoff final at Wembley to win promotion to the third tier.

READ: Taking pay cut to help FA a no-brainer, says Gareth Southgate

It was the first time a game was played without fans since the rebuilt Wembley opened in 2007. The loss of revenue will also be felt when the FA Cup semifinals and final are staged at an empty Wembley in the coming weeks.

Wembley was due to stage seven games at the European Championship including the semifinals and finals next month but the tournament was postponed by a year. Other events, including concerts and two NFL regular season games, have also been called off.


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Social distancing at stadiums meant Northampton players had to pick up the medals and trophy themselves - rather than from dignitaries.   -  AP



"We have already lost that money and there is no way we can recover it," FA chairman Greg Clarke said on Monday.

"The pandemic will be followed by an economic recession, so there will be problems that last for years."

According to the British government tally, there have been more than 43,500 coronavirus-related deaths since March. While sport has resumed this month, supporters are not allowed in stadiums as part of efforts to contain COVID-19.

READ: Premier League faces COVID-19 impact despite clubs posting record revenue

"No one knows when a vaccine will be ready or when better medical treatments will be ready," Clarke said. "So we have to plan for extended periods of social distancing which could limit crowds ... and could limit the number of competitions to be played."

When Britain went into lockdown in March, the FA halted recruitment and 42 vacant positions will not be filled. Another 82 roles are being removed from the not-for-profit governing body.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the focus will be spending on the key mission - helping the men's and women's national teams win major tournaments.

"That means we have set out in our proposals some difficult choices because we do not think we can afford to do all the things that we did before," he said.

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