Dunfermline release 17 players as reality bites for lower-league football

London (AFP) –


Scottish Championship side Dunfermline released 17 out-of-contract players on Friday as a British lawmaker warned that up to 10 lower-league clubs in England could be weeks away from going into administration.

The Scottish season is already over, with all four divisions decided on a points-per-game basis after the coronavirus pandemic stopped play in March.

Testing costs, the expiry of player contracts and a high reliance on gate receipts are among the reasons Scottish clubs have not tried to complete the campaign behind closed doors.

"As a consequence of this continued uncertainty, we are afraid to announce that unfortunately our club will not be in a position to offer new contracts, at this time, to any of the players who are out of contract over the coming days," Dunfermline said in a statement.

"As we don’t know when we will be playing games again we have no other option but to protect the future of the club itself."

In England, League Two clubs have agreed in principle to end their season, with a simple majority needed to pass a vote to curtail the campaign.

Clubs in League One are divided over a return, while the Championship is keen to follow in the footsteps of the Premier League's "Project Restart."

However, without the huge amounts of television revenue that top-flight clubs receive, lower-league sides are even more exposed to the financial problems caused by a potentially long spell of playing with no fans.

Conservative MP Damian Collins believes the clubs' role as community assets means they should be eligible for a government bailout.

"In the next few weeks we could see five to 10 EFL (English Football League) clubs going into administration, said Collins, the former chairman of the House of Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee.

"We saw the outcry last summer when two clubs, Bury and Bolton were in trouble (Bury were expelled from the Football League). If that happens there will be huge public demand to do something. Without government stepping in, those clubs could go to the wall and there may be others that follow."

EFL chairman Rick Parry warned earlier this month that the 71 clubs in his competition were facing a collective £200 million ($244 million) cash hole by the end of September.

An estimated 1,400 players are out of contract in the EFL at the end of June.

"I can't see clubs offering contracts in that period," Alex Rodman, a midfielder at League One side Bristol Rovers, told the BBC.

"A lot (of the 1,400 players) could be lost to the game, which would be a massive shame."