Coronavirus: Grimsby boss Ian Holloway says 'we can't afford tests'
By Aidan Magee, Sky Sports News reporter
Last Updated: 29/05/20 11:45am
Ian Holloway has called on the Government to step in and save the lower reaches of English football from extinction.
The Grimsby manager says the fallout from the coronavirus crisis offers a chance to rebuild the game from top to bottom.
Holloway has played and managed in all four divisions and is worried the highest levels of the sport do not care enough about those lower down the pyramid, whose very existence is under grave threat from the coronavirus pandemic
He saw his League Two campaign with Grimsby suspended earlier this month with no certainty over a return.
Holloway estimates 50 per cent of his club's turnover comes from gate receipts - and the loss of revenue meant releasing nine players last week in what he describes as one of the hardest days of his life.
"Does football care about the level I'm currently at? I can honestly say - I don't think it does," Holloway said.
"What does solidarity really mean? We end up with scraps off the table because football isn't being governed.
"The question I'm asking is how much money does the EFL and the PFA have in the bank? They should both be sharing that out to help their members right now."
The EFL announced a £50m short-term relief package on March 18 and PFA chief Gordon Taylor has donated £500,000 - a quarter of his salary - to the charitable fund set up by Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, to which the PFA charity fund also donated £1m.
Holloway, however, remains concerned about the future of lower league clubs.
"We only seem to care about our own clubs - and I think that's wrong," he said. "If you don't have other clubs, you haven't got a game.
"The players at the top should be thinking about the players at the bottom because without that community lower down there is no football pyramid. How many players have come out of non-league and ended up playing for England? I can think of loads.
"At the moment the roof is very shiny and isn't coming off - yet soon there will be no walls and no foundations.
"The clubs at the top don't even need the crowd. They can just keep playing because they get enough from TV revenue.
"They don't share that wealth out and it does my head in. That's why Government should be brought in to run it.
"I'm talking about national government here. Football belongs to Great Britain and owners need to know how to run clubs.
"The game has a chance to reset with the current situation. It cannot govern itself. That's the truth."
Holloway, 57, has had a vested interest in matters beyond just team affairs since becoming a Grimsby Town share-owner as well as team manager when he was appointed last December.
His chairman Peter Day was among the signatories supporting Conservative MP Damian Collins' proposal that a government-funded Football Finance Authority (FFA) should be set up to help financially-stricken EFL clubs.
Holloway also revealed his club don't anticipate fans returning to Blundell Park until this time next year.
"We can't do business while fans aren't allowed back," he added.
"Right now, we're waiting for government to tell us when we can come back to playing safely.
"Even just testing the players over nine games would have cost us £146,000. We don't have that money.
"Every player out of contract now is in massive trouble. Nobody is able to sign them to deals until we know when we will be playing in front of a crowd again."
In the meantime, the former QPR, Crystal Palace and Blackpool boss is locking down at his family home near Bath.
He and wife Kim are keen artists and they have room dedicated to their craft at the top of their property.
Holloway has taken up woodwork to pass the time, using YouTube tutorials to enhance his technique.
He recently painted a portrait of his hero Stevie Wonder and went a step further by building the wooden frame it now hangs in.
"I've been doing lots of different jobs around the house," he said.
"I spend plenty of time in my workshop and I thought I'd use this time to teach myself some woodwork.
"I've made about 30 frames for Kim's paintings and a few more for my daughter Chloe, who is also an artist.
"I'm a massive fan of Stevie Wonder. He is my biggest hero. He is visually-impaired and has been a huge inspiration to my three daughters, who are all deaf.
"I can't just sit still. I miss people and I have to keep busy."