Read the stark financial warning delivered to Mike Ashley and Newcastle United as the FA warn of 'unprecedented adversity'

FA chairman Greg Clarke has delivered a stark warning to Newcastle United – suggesting that the economic challenges facing the sport in the aftermath of the COVID-19 will be ‘beyond the wildest imagination’ of those involved in the game.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley

His warning will ring alarm bells for Mike Ashley and fellow top flight owners, with Clarke insisting that even Premier League sides will not be immune to the financial impact of coronavirus.

In a speech to the FA Council, he said: “Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it.

“We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse. Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection.

“In the face of this unprecedented adversity, all the stakeholders within the game from players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.

“Everyone should understand that the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this and whilst they are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base, the potential overall financial impact is huge.

“We must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted. We hope we do not need this plan as we are all determined to finish the professional football season, however we would be fools not to develop such a contingency plan. Those that lost their clubs because English football did not rise to the challenge would rightly judge us harshly.

“Time is pressing as football burns through its cash reserves with no sign yet of a resumption of the game.”

Clarke also reiterated the FA’s desire to finish the Premier League season – but concedes that it may not be possible.

“We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit.

“However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority, human life is, and we will do as the Government directs as the pandemic unfolds.”