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Full Transcript: Walsall Chairman Leigh Pomlett Speaks to BBC Radio WM

Walsall chairman Leigh Pomlett has continued in his drive to share the very latest news with the Saddlers faithful as he spoke to BBC WM Sport presenter Paul Franks on Wednesday evening.
Pomlett, who has provided fans with several video updates over the course of the coronavirus lock-down, was on hand to answer a variety of questions following the confirmation that the 2019/20 League Two campaign has come to an end.

On Tuesday afternoon officials representing clubs from the second and third leagues in the EFL trio took part in various video calls as they sought to determine the future of both League One and League Two.

With the Championship already due to restart later this month officials have agreed to end the third and fourth tier of the English game early with clubs in the promotion and relegation positions still exiting their current competitions.

It was also confirmed that both the League One and League Two Play-Offs will go ahead with the various promotion-chasing teams still within a chance of securing a spot one tier higher in time for the soon-to-be-rearranged 2020/21 kick-off.

The interview began with Franksy asking Leigh how the club was holding up financially as the coronavirus lock-down saw club income collapse thanks to the lack of football.

Leigh said; "OK, we've worked very hard, we have a plan, the stakeholders around the club have been extremely helpful, so we're OK. It's not easy, it'd be foolish to say it was easy, but It's not keeping me up at night, lets put it that way."

As the club only know where their immediate future lies - although a date for the start of the 2020/21 campaign is yet to be confirmed - Franksy went on to ask about the club's future planning, including the playing budget, a potential return of fans to the Banks's, and any players manager Darrell Clarke may wish to add to his squad.

Leigh replied; "Well we need revenue, whether that is through fans or through a television and an iFollow deal of some sort, we need revenue.

"Walsall Football Club makes revenue from conference and events as well as just football and by advertising over the M6, so its got a very diverse revenue stream.

"It would be incredibly helpful having the fans coming in, but, providing we have the revenue streams that start in September/ October time, then we will be OK.

"If it goes beyond that then I'll have to take some more action, but at this moment in time we'll be OK, but we're forecasting on the basis that there will be some revenue flow September/ October time in fact, but we don't know this to be honest with you but we have made a working assumption that the season will start on the 12th of September.

"That's a working assumption, you have to put something down to work to in the absence of anybody else giving you any information.

"But it's purely a working assumption that Walsall Football Club's made that we will be playing on the 12th of September onward. Could change, but that's our working assumption at the moment."

Franksy then asked how difficult it will be for the club to secure suitable signings with so many questions yet to be answered, not least of which being when the season will actually begin.

Pomlett answered; "Well it is. It is, but the fact is we have a very stable squad, we have eighteen professionals already for next year.

"We have players that are under contract for the last year and this coming year, and I looked at the squad yesterday (Tuesday) with Darrell and with the lads coming through from the Academy, the first year professionals, now as well we have eighteen professionals to start the new year with.

"Darrell wants a squad, obviously, bigger than that but under the new rules of football squads will not be of thirty, they will not be thirty going forward, more in the region of twenty-three to twenty-five would be the squad a League Two club would have.

"So we're about five/ seven short of that at the moment and I expect that, and I also expect that by next season squad sizes and squad salaries will be capped, not individual salaries but the amount a club can spend on salaries.

"I think it will be capped. So it's a different world. So it's a more uncertain world certainly."

Franksy interjected to ask if the proposed salary caps would make it a better world, in terms of football. Leigh responded; "No, it is, it stops people being stupid, it stops people putting football clubs at risk by spending money they haven't got and it makes it a more level playing field where clubs will be, we'll have this wonderful experience, potentially, of the best manager, who can get the most out of a squad which is pretty valued the same across the whole of League Two and League One - getting promoted, not the club that throws the most money at it to make sure that they get promoted and then fail to do so.

"You know, so I think out of this chaos and the Covid-19 situation if the football world comes to its senses, we'll have a better future than we've had past.

"Certainly I'm not going to miss the opportunity to make sure that Walsall takes advantage of that. I'm pretty vocal about this in the EFL sessions."

Franksy went on to agree that a more level playing field will put the Saddlers in good stead if clubs are forced to live within their means, although this, and the squad caps will mean that more players will be out of work as clubs will have to make new signings with caution.

Leigh agreed; "Oh there will, I mean I have no doubt about that, there will be footballers out of work, not so much out of my particular club but across the football world.

"I think there is already 1,400 that will be released at the end of June, so there will be less footballers without doubt across the lower leagues of football. I suspect across all leagues of football but certainly in League One and League Two, and it will be a more level playing field, and that, in my view, is the right thing to do."

Franksy then asked whether Leigh thought the PPG (points-per-game) system was the fairest way to decide how League One and League Two ended.

The chairman replied; "Yes. I voted for it, therefore it would be wrong for me to backtrack on it, I think, of the options available to us, it was the right thing to do, the season could not be finished, we're not ready for Covid security around the football world at the moment in League One and League Two in my view.

"And the costs associated with testing, were talking about to finish the season will cost a club in our league 400 to 500 thousand pounds, we don't have it and no club that I know does have it.

"So you're left with a decision about safety and security of your staff and your players and then you're left with the economic consequences of making a decision.

"And the two pointed very, very clearly, it was not a very difficult decision to be honest, it just came to be a very sensible decision to say 'let's end this'.

"And the other thing is the uncertainty, you mentioned it yourself, it doesn't matter what the decision is just for goodness sake make it.

"And in the end the chairman of League Two clubs made it and said 'that's what we want to do' and it was finally ratified only yesterday (Tuesday). It was such an obvious thing to do and that's what we've gone and done."

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