Premier League giants should help struggling lower-league clubs battling to survive the coronavirus pandemic, a top Government minister has said.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden urged cash-soaked sides to pump emergency funds into less well-off clubs.
Some fear they could go out of business as ongoing Covid-19 restrictions mean they cannot admit fans – denying them vital ticket receipts, bar takings and snacks’ sales.
Many also rely on hosting hospitality and conference events, which are also banned amid the ongoing fight against the disease.
Mr Dowden told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “First of all we need to look to the Premier League.
“I’ve been touch with the Premier League a lot over the past few days, they’re working closely with the EFL (English Football League) to see how they can support them.
“The Prime Minister and I have been clear, the Premier League needs to start by looking after the football family as a whole and indeed they’re having productive conversations and I’m hopeful that they’ll reach a deal this coming week in relation to that.”
It is understood a rescue package could be unveiled as early as Tuesday.
Plans to allow limited numbers of supporters back into grounds were shelved last week as infection rates soared.
Clubs fear it could be six months before fans can return.
Mr Dowden said: “It simply is not possible against this backdrop of rising infections, and I think if we went ahead against this backdrop of rising infections there will be real concern from spectators and indeed from the general public thinking, ‘Why are we doing this at this stage?’”
He added: “We keep this constantly under review.
“At this time of rapidly rising infections we didn’t feel that this was the right time.
“If we start to get this under control of course we’ll continue to review it.
“We are working for example with the clubs, with medical advisers to see what kind of further innovations we can introduce to further decrease the risk.”