The Premier League and English Football League (EFL) have agreed a £250million rescue package to help clubs overcome the financial challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Championship clubs will have access to a £200m pool of interest-free loan funds, while a £50m grant will be made available for those in League One and Two.

Loans to second-tier clubs will be capped at £8.33m and would have to be repaid by June 2024.

EFL chairman Rick Parry welcomed the resolution after lengthy discussions.

"Our over-arching aim throughout this process has been to ensure that all EFL clubs survive the financial impact of the pandemic," he said.

"I am pleased that we have now reached a resolution on behalf of our clubs and as we have maintained throughout this will provide much-needed support and clarity following months of uncertainty."

Fans returned to some Football League grounds this week after England's national lockdown was replaced by a tier system.

However, with attendances limited by social-distancing measures, clubs are unlikely to profit from staging matches under such circumstances.

It is hoped that the deal agreed on Thursday will prevent the worst-case scenario of clubs going out of business.

Gordon Taylor is set to resign as chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) at the end of the season.

The 75-year-old has held the post since 1981 and has now confirmed his plan to depart after a review into the PFA's finances was completed.

Taylor announced his intention to step down in March 2019 and will ultimately do so more than two years later when the 2020-21 campaign concludes.

"As I announced at our previous AGM, now that the Independent Review process has completed, I too will step down, by the end of the current season," Taylor wrote in a widely reported letter to members ahead of Thursday's AGM where members will vote on a new governance structure.

"A new chief executive will be elected following the recruitment procedure recommended by the Independent Review, and we have already made substantial progress in that direction. 

"I will of course be available in the future whenever needed to support the PFA."

Norwich City and Middlesbrough are among the teams selected to welcome back a limited number of fans this week as the EFL continues its pilot programme.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, crowds had not been allowed at professional matches across Britain since football returned in June until Cambridge United were able to facilitate spectators last week.

With fans returning to games in France and certain regions of Germany, the EFL has now confirmed an extension of its scheme, with 10 fixtures initially selected for the coming weekend, although Luton Town have opted out.

Following government guidance, crowds will be capped at a 1,000 capacity with social distancing measures in place. Talks are ongoing over the possibility of higher attendances being allowed after October 1.

Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium will be able to house fans for their game against Bournemouth, while Norwich City versus Preston North End is the only other Championship match with spectators in attendance after Luton, who host Derby County, informed the EFL they would not be involved.

In League One, Charlton Athletic, Blackpool, Shrewsbury Town and Hull City have all been given the green light to host fans.

Forest Green Rovers, Carlisle United and Morecambe are the League Two teams selected, following in the footsteps of Cambridge, Morecambe's visitors.

"It's encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to a 1,000 fans this week," said EFL chairman Rick Parry.

"The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely.

"By extending across more EFL clubs, we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month."

Fulham have confirmed the signing of Antonee Robinson, the left-back who appeared set to join Milan in January before a move fell through. 

Robinson has moved to Craven Cottage from beleaguered League One club Wigan Athletic for an undisclosed fee, reportedly in the region of £2million. 

The United States international – who was born in Milton Keynes and came through Everton's academy system - has signed a four-year contract with the Premier League newcomers. 

Milan had seemingly been set to sign the 23-year-old in the previous transfer window, only for the deal to collapse at the last minute after he had already travelled to Italy. 

However, Robinson will now get the chance to play in the English top flight instead, revealing it was an "easy decision" to commit to Fulham following a conversation with manager Scott Parker.

"I am made up to be a Fulham player. I was really excited to get down here and get everything signed," he told his new club's website.

"I heard a few days ago that Scott Parker was interested in me and wanted to speak to me personally. We had a zoom call and he was really keen to get the deal done and for me to be a Fulham player.

"Fulham play a really nice style of football and I can see myself fitting in perfectly. As soon as I heard of the ambitions of the club it was an easy decision for me."

Fulham were promoted from the Championship via the play-offs, beating Brentford in the final, while Wigan suffered relegation after being hit with a 12-point penalty for going into administration.

Joe Gelhardt has signed for Leeds United from Wigan Athletic, the Premier League club have confirmed.

Striker Gelhardt has signed a four-year deal with Leeds, after joining for an undisclosed fee.

Having made his Wigan debut in 2018, Gelhardt made 19 appearances in all competitions for the Latics last season, scoring one goal.

Gelhardt becomes Leeds' fourth signing of the transfer window, after Jack Harrison rejoined on loan from Manchester City and Helder Costa and Illan Meslier made their stays permanent.

Wigan Athletic have confirmed manager Paul Cook has left the financially troubled club.

Following his appointment in May 2017, Cook claimed the League One title in his first season in charge, while Wigan finished 18th in the Championship the following campaign to retain their status in the second tier.

Wigan appeared on course to stay up again this term after a spectacular run of form since the start of 2020, but they were deducted 12 points after entering administration and went on to be relegated.

While they have launched an appeal - they would have finished 13th without the points sanction - Cook announced his departure on Saturday with a "heavy heart".

"It is well publicised that the club is going through an incredibly challenging period and, of course, we are all hoping a positive outcome can be found so this football club can write its next chapter under new ownership," he said in a statement.

"That has to be the main priority for everyone involved and I know the administrators are working hard to ensure the club can get through these difficult times and find new owners.

"I want to thank every player for their efforts, hard work and commitment during my three years as manager. I would like to thank my assistant Leam Richardson and as a collective I thank all of my support staff and the staff behind the scenes who are so pivotal to the football club.

"We must also not forget the 75 people who unfortunately lost their jobs a few weeks ago and I hope for those people that the club can find a positive solution and move forwards in the near future."

Cook has been linked with the vacancy at Bristol City, while he was also rumoured to be in the running for the Birmingham City job before the appointment of Aitor Karanka.

Wycombe Wanderers striker Adebayo Akinfenwa's televised plea for talks with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has proved successful to a certain extent – he has bagged himself an invite to the club's Premier League trophy parade.

Akinfenwa, a long-time Liverpool fan, was part of the Wycombe side that achieved promotion to the Championship for the first time in their 133-year history thanks to Monday's 2-1 League One play-off final victory over Oxford United.

A Wycombe cult hero, Akinfenwa's contract is due to expire at the end of the season, but in a memorable post-match interview he on reflected a difficult journey from being "technically unemployed" four years ago to winning promotion to England's second tier.

In his speech, he said the only person who could "hit me up on WhatsApp this time is Klopp" so they could celebrate their successes together, and the German duly obliged with a congratulatory video message.

Klopp then went one better on Tuesday, extending Akinfenwa an invitation to the club's Premier League trophy parade, when such an event is allowed to go ahead.

"When it's possible, in the future one day," Klopp said when asked if the two will meet. "I don't know when exactly, but he is invited for the parade, 100 per cent.

"I saw, before the video, when he was sitting in the team meeting in a Liverpool kit, which I thought was really funny. I watched the game [and] yes, he responded – he sent a video back. It's private [what he said], at least a few things in life should stay private.

"It was nice, he was obviously really happy."

Adebayo Akinfenwa said he was only open to talking to Jurgen Klopp after Wycombe Wanderers secured promotion to the Championship and the Liverpool manager responded.

Wycombe reached the Championship for the first time in their 133-year history thanks to Monday's 2-1 League One play-off victory over Oxford United at Wembley.

Joe Jacobson's penalty with 11 minutes remaining stunned Oxford and sent Wycombe up to England's second tier against the odds.

Wycombe cult hero and Liverpool fan Akinfenwa – out of contract at the end of the season – revelled in the achievement, telling Sky Sports in a memorable post-game interview: "Look, look, let me calm down. First and foremost, I want to thank God, because today he made the impossible possible. Four years ago I stood in front of you and I was technically unemployed.

"Let me tell you something, the only person that can hit me up on WhatsApp this time is Klopp, so we can celebrate together. You get me? Oi!

"I hope my story shows that the only opinion that matters is the opinion you have about yourself. I was lucky and blessed to find a manager and players who believed in me, so we are here today, and I'll say it for the people in the back: Wycombe's in the Championship.

"Wait, wait, I'll say it one more time: Wycombe is in the Champio- Wait! The people in the back didn't hear me! Wycombe is in the Championship!"

Premier League-winning manager Klopp heard the 38-year-old striker's request and answered.

In a video message sent to Akinfenwa, Klopp said: "Hello big man, congratulations!

"Watched the game, well I didn't see the post-match interviews but Hendo [Jordan Henderson] or one of my players told me that you want to get, what did you think to say? If you could get in contact with me on WhatsApp, here we go!

"Congratulations. I'm pretty sure your whole life at least a Championship player and now finally, you are there. Well done.

"Great, great victory. Even in strange times, I hope you celebrate appropriately."

Eight individuals connected to Championship clubs have tested positive for coronavirus in the latest round of testing, the English Football League (EFL) has confirmed.

There were 2,213 tests conducted on players and staff across all 24 clubs in the division, with the positive results coming from six teams.

An EFL statement released on Wednesday read: "Those players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate in line with the guidelines provided by the EFL.

"Only those who have tested negative will be permitted to enter training ground facilities."

The Championship is set to resume on Saturday, three days after the Premier League recommences, so any people who tested positive in this round will have to miss the first batch of matches.

Brentford, who face Fulham in the English second-tier's first game back, confirmed they had returned one of the positive tests, not specifying whether it was a player.

Across League One and League Two, 428 players and staff were tested from a total of eight teams.

Four of those tests returned a positive result.

Two individuals connected to Championship clubs have tested positive for coronavirus in the latest round of testing, the English Football League (EFL) has confirmed.

This most recent figure marks a significant decrease from the previous two batches, which saw a combined total of 19 positive tests.

One of the positive results came at Barnsley, the Tykes have confirmed, with the club saying the individual is "safe" and "remains upbeat".

The overall sample size was 1,179 this time around, meaning over 5,000 tests have been carried out on players and staff associated with Championship clubs since May 21.

An EFL statement read: "Following the latest round of COVID-19 testing, the EFL can confirm that 1,179 players and club staff from the 24 Championship clubs were tested over the course of Wednesday June 3, Thursday June 4, Friday June 5 and Saturday June 6, with two individuals testing positive from two clubs.

"Those players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate in line with the guidelines provided by the EFL and only those who have tested negative will be permitted to enter training ground facilities."

The Championship is set to resume on June 20, three days after the Premier League recommences.

Across League One and League Two, 267 players and staff were tested - one returned a positive result.

 

Hard-hit English clubs from outside the Premier League may want to look again at tie-ups with top-flight sides after the coronavirus period, a former Football Association chief has suggested.

Dan Ashworth served as FA technical director until departing after the 2018 World Cup to join Brighton and Hove Albion, where he holds the same job title.

He was involved in talks while at the national governing body that took in discussions about B teams and feeder clubs, but in 2017 said he could not see the shape of the English game "changing anytime soon".

The English Football League (EFL) also took a strong stance against the notion of B teams, at a time when it was suggested an extra tier could be added in a restructuring plan.

However, clubs are facing up to unprecedented hardship because of the COVID-19 crisis, with football suspended and little hope that spectators will be allowed inside stadiums until 2021 at the earliest.

It could mean many clubs are left with crippling debts and others go out of existence, potentially leaving holes to fill in the EFL's competitions, which may create space for B teams of Premier League clubs.

Those teams from the Championship, League One and League Two that survive might welcome the prospect of being propped up by elite clubs, who are fighting to protect their huge broadcast revenue.

Ashworth, quoted widely in the UK media, said: "The sort of things we explored a number of years ago, during my time at the FA, were strategic loan clubs, B teams or partner clubs.

"Maybe, just maybe, things like that come back on the table.

"If there is a shortage of money and everybody has to cut their cloth accordingly then maybe there're ways we can share resources and help one another.

"Ground sharing is one that has been looked at before, artificial surfaces that can be used for concerts and training. You could have women's and men's games in the same venue."

Discussions relating to the return of Premier League football have been held in "constructive meetings", according to the United Kingdom government's foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

The Premier League has been on hiatus for almost two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted much of the world and brought professional sport to a standstill.

'Project Restart', as it has been dubbed, is being planned by the Premier League, as decision-makers look to determine the best way to resume matches.

According to reports, numerous ideas are being considered, such as playing the remaining matches behind closed doors at neutral venues, while Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor has suggested matches could even be shortened.

Raab confirmed the government has already held talks with sporting bodies with regards to allowing athletes and players to resume training, and while he suggested discussions are going well, he stressed safety is the priority.

"I think it would lift the spirit of the nation," Raab said in the government's daily briefing on Tuesday.

"The government has had constructive meetings with sports bodies over plans for athletes to resume training when it's safe to do so.

"The culture secretary has also been working on a plan to get sports played behind closed doors when we move to the second phase.

"We can only do it when the medical and scientific advice is that it can be done safely and sustainably, but that is certainly something under active consideration."

The UK has had almost 195,000 confirmed cases of the virus, while the death toll has reached 29,427, the largest total in Europe.

Cancelling relegation from the Premier League this season would outrage Championship clubs, according to Rick Parry, the EFL chairman.

Parry added that the 2019-20 campaign needs to be finished by July 31 for sides outside the top flight.

Former Liverpool and Premier League chief executive Parry was giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Professional football in England has been suspended since March, with Parry revealing that clubs below the top flight are facing a £200million shortfall by the end of September as a result.

"Our end date realistically is 31 July because of the situation with contracts," said Parry of when the season needs to come to a close. "We can't go beyond July.

"Players and staff have been furloughed and to expect clubs to bring them back in now, to forgo the furlough, only to then find in a month they can't play would be a complete mess.

"We need within days to be taking decisions.

"We have a great deal of uncertainty around next season and the undetermined matter of when we'll be able to return with crowds, which for the EFL is absolutely critical.

"We're much more dependent upon the revenue and atmosphere generated by crowds than the Premier League."

Some Premier League clubs are reportedly uneasy about the competitive disadvantage of playing behind closed doors at neutral venues as they battle relegation, believing the drop into the Championship should be taken off the table.

However, Parry said: "The Premier League is aware of our position on that. There would be a degree of outrage from a number of clubs in the Championship and it would be a breach of the tripartite agreement."

Parry added that "lawyers are going to get wealthy" if relegation is scrapped.

Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth were in the relegation places when the season was halted. West Ham and Watford were only outside the bottom three on goal difference, with Brighton and Hove Albion two points clear of the drop.

Gordon Taylor has revealed playing less than 45 minutes per half has been proposed ahead of the return of football in England.

There has been no professional football in England since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and players' union boss Taylor does not envisage a return until at least the middle of June.

The Premier League launched 'Project Restart' in a bid to conclude the 2019/20 campaign, with games potentially played at neutral venues in England or even overseas.

World governing body FIFA has proposed increasing the number of substitutions in an attempt to ease players' workload, with the prospect of a hectic schedule to come if the action gets under way again.

Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chief executive Taylor says reducing the duration of matches has also been discussed.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We don't know the future, what we do know is what propositions have been put, what ideas have been put, the possibility of having more substitutes, games possibly not being the full 45 minutes each way.

"We've talked of neutral stadiums, there's lots of things been put forward, try and wait and see what the proposals are and then have the courtesy to let the managers and coaches and players come to a considered view."

Taylor believes it would be unrealistic to expect games to take place before the middle of next month.

He added: "I wouldn't expect games to be played, if everything was positive and promising, you wouldn't be thinking of matches being played until around about the middle of June."

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero said players are "scared" to return and Taylor stated it is their choice over whether they take to the field.

The long-serving PFA boss said: "Sergio is a top-class player and is entitled to his opinion of course.

"It's not a question of being scared, it's a question of being fully informed and for the relevant authorities to try and make sure it's as safe as it possibly can be to return, and to pick out any particular statements or choose any parts of that process is not really fair until we've looked at the whole menu."

Taylor added: "They are professional sportsmen and professional sportswomen and of course they are concerned about their own safety, they are not stupid and neither are they naive, so they have to be satisfied that it is safe to return and it is their choice."

Hopes are fading that spectators will be allowed into English football grounds before 2021 after a revelation from former Premier League club Bradford City.

Now in League Two, Bradford said they had suspended 2020-21 season-ticket sales after being told of an "ever-growing possibility" of having to play behind-closed-doors games until next year.

Bradford, who were last in the English top flight in 2001, said it was "highly likely" next season would at least begin with games played without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The West Yorkshire club's decision followed their involvement in a conference call with the English Football League (EFL) on Thursday.

Bradford said in a statement: "'City For All' 2020-21 season-ticket sales have today been suspended.

"The decision has been taken as the club continues to await further information regarding a conclusion to the current campaign, with the start date for next season yet to be confirmed.

"This comes following a meeting yesterday held between the EFL and the Bantams' League Two colleagues.

"City officials have recently been informed of the ever-growing possibility of supporters being unable to attend matches until 2021.

"And it is now highly likely that next season will commence behind closed doors."

The 2019-20 season stalled in March with the arrival and spread in England of COVID-19, and reports have claimed the EFL campaign could be abandoned because of the amount of testing that would need to be conducted just to allow closed-doors games to be played.

It remains to be seen whether the Premier League and EFL have joined-up thinking on matters such as playing games without supporters next season.

Although the Premier League has huge broadcast deals, which it is eager to preserve, clubs lower down the pyramid are facing a harsh reality of losing vital matchday income, amid fears many could be forced out of business.

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