LONDON (Reuters) - The Premier League must step up and provide financial support to the lower league clubs whose revenues have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) secretary Oliver Dowden said on Sunday.
English Football League (EFL) clubs in the three tiers below the Premier League rely heavily on matchday revenue, with an estimated 200 million pounds ($255 million) in losses forecast if games are held behind closed doors all season.
With the British government postponing plans to allow a limited number of spectators back into stadiums from October after a second wave of COVID-19 infections, many clubs said they may collapse if they do not receive a bailout.
"The first thing we need to look to is the Premier League and I've been in contact with them this week," Dowden told Sky Sports.
"We're all agreed the Premier League needs to step up to the plate and they're having intensive discussions with the EFL over how they can support those clubs. They're ready to play their part, the Prime Minister and I have been urging them to do that.
"The direction is clear... I'm in close consultation with them and I'm hopeful they will be able to reach a deal and provide that level of support."
The Premier League said its members suffered 700 million pounds of losses last season after stadiums barred fans but the situation in the top tier is not as bad because the clubs enjoy lucrative television deals.
The idea of the Premier League helping out the lower division clubs has also been backed by a number of top-flight managers, including Liverpool's Juergen Klopp, Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Sheffield United's Chris Wilder.
($1 = 0.7846 pounds)
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)