A group of world financiers, including a major U.S. company, are offering a lifeline in excess of £1 billion to English football as it tackles the monetary crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, sources have told ESPN.
The Premier League and English Football League remain adamant that the 2019-20 campaign will be finished, but no resumption date has been agreed, with some clubs fearing they may go bust if the hiatus extends into the summer.
Sources have told ESPN a fund incorporating contributions from several investment banks have indicated they can provide an alternative: a working loan facility to help offset cash flow issues.
The proposal would see money distributed by football's governing bodies wherever it was most needed and then repaid at a negotiated rate of interest at a future date -- or perhaps converted into equity if all parties agreed.
Discussions have taken place between representatives of the fund and senior officials at a variety of sporting bodies including, but not limited to, football. No decision has yet been taken on whether to activate the fund, with negotiations said to be ongoing.
Contributors to the £1bn fund have been brought together by various parties, including several leading football agents.
One of them, Scott Smith, who founded agency RAPS Management, told ESPN: "We want this to work because it will help show that agents -- as well as players who have received an unfair press of late -- care passionately about the game and its future."
Sources have told ESPN there is support for use of the fund from lower levels of English football, with many clubs facing a huge financial battle due to a loss of matchday revenue.
Several top-flight sides have either agreed wage deferrals or are in discussions with players to do so. Tottenham and Liverpool were among the teams to be widely castigated for attempting to use the British government's furlough scheme to help offset losses -- both clubs later reversed their course of action -- and it is believed the Treasury are keen to prioritise other areas outside of sport in providing financial support.
Sources have told ESPN that football could resume in early June but matches would only take place behind closed doors and with plans to condense the end of the season into a few weeks, it may be months before supporters will be able to attend matches inside stadia.
Several chairman have expressed their concerns at being able to survive without fans inside stadiums, something which is also an issue for Premier League clubs but one in their case offset by the billions they receive in television broadcast income.
The EFL has already provided its own £50m fund to help clubs with their cash flow in addition to a £125m pledge from the Premier League. However, sources have told ESPN the £50m sum comprises reserves from the League's television deal while the £125m figure is made up of early solidarity payments -- monies annually distributed by the Premier League to help lower-league clubs.
By contrast, this new fund would make fresh money available -- a possibility also being explored by EFL chairman and former EFL CEO Shaun Harvey, who is believed to have examined similar funding arrangements.
British health secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this month that footballers had an obligation to take a pay cut. So far, Arsenal are the only club to have agreed to do so but wage deferrals are becoming common and Premier League players have also set up a collective initiative called "Players Together" which is raising money for the National Health Service.