By David Williams
Cardiff City and Swansea City could be part of a legal fight against the Premier League if the Championship clubs are denied promotion.
English Football League chairman Rick Parry made the warning as plans continue for a return to action for the top flight – but with no agreement yet on whether any clubs would be under threat of relegation.
Parry had been called to give evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sport and he highlighted the particular difficulties facing the 71 clubs in his competition.
Parry said the EFL expected three clubs to be promoted from the Championship to the Premier League, or “the lawyers are going to get wealthy”.
There have been reports that top-flight clubs want to play out the season with the threat of relegation removed, but Parry said it would get very “messy” if that happened and warned it would be a breach of the tripartite agreement between the Premier League, the EFL and the Football Association.
“We expect three Championship clubs to be promoted – the Premier League are aware of our position on that. The Premier League expects three clubs to be relegated,” he said.
Asked what would happen if the Premier League’s position changed, Parry said: “The lawyers are going to get wealthy if that happens.
“There would be a degree of outrage from a number of clubs in our Championship, and it would be a breach of the tripartite agreement.
“The safe answer is that it would get very messy. Our expectation is there would be three clubs promoted from the Championship.”
Cardiff are currently two points off the play-off places, with Swansea a point further adrift with none matches still to play when the campaign eventually resumed.
Promotion for either would be worth a minimum £140m, compared to the £4m-a-season they will be expected to receive once their parachute payments run out.
Parry described parachute payments to clubs relegated from the Premier League as “an evil that needs to be eradicated”.
“There is strong opposition to them in the EFL, that’s almost a given, apart from the clubs receiving them,” he said.
“They are a prime example of clubs being protected or helping them adjust to the chasm (between the Premier League and the Championship). But if we didn’t have a chasm in the first place you wouldn’t need them.”
Parry said the desire to finish the season at EFL level behind closed doors was mainly a consideration of sporting integrity – saying financially there was almost no benefit.
“At our level if we were to play behind closed doors then it’s finely balanced economically, almost neutral. For many clubs it would cost them to play – the cost of staging games.”
Asked in a worst-case scenario how many clubs might go out of business, Parry said: “That’s a difficult one to answer.
“We are heading for a financial hole of about £200m by the end of September, cash hole, that we will need to fill. Clubs are stacking up creditors as well.
“We have a great deal of uncertainty around next season of course, the great undetermined matter being when we’re going to return to play in front of crowds, which for the EFL is absolutely critical.
“We’re much more dependent on revenue – and indeed much more dependent on the atmosphere generated by crowds potentially than the Premier League.”