Premier League and LaLiga spell out worst-case scenarios of stoppage
English soccer’s Premier League faces losses of over £1 billion ($1.23 billion) if it is unable to complete the 2019-20 season, and there are fears clubs across the pyramid could go bankrupt, in the absence of matches caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Similarly, Spain’s LaLiga has warned it is in line for losses of €1 billion ($1.09 billion) if its season cannot be finalised, but is hopeful of resuming play in late-May or June, most likely behind closed doors, with a view to an August finish.
The two leagues unveiled the extent of the potential financial crisis on the same day that the sport’s international governing body Fifa announced various recommendations to mitigate the disruption to the sport, relating to issues such as player contracts and transfer windows.
Most leagues in Europe, and indeed around the world, are presently suspended as a result of the pandemic, and there are concerns over the sustainability of clubs, especially if broadcasters have to be refunded in the event of seasons being cancelled.
In a letter to Julian Knight, the chairman of the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Like much of the productive economy in the UK, we are losing revenue at an unprecedented level. We face a £1 billion loss, at least, if we fail to complete season 2019/20 and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends into the future.”
Masters was seeking to explain the actions of some clubs which have furloughed non-playing staff, using the government scheme which is covering 80 per cent of the wages of employees temporarily laid off during the health emergency.
He wrote: “Ultimately, the very heavy losses that we face will have to be dealt with or else clubs and other enterprises who depend on football for income will go out of business. We do not say this lightly, or to justify clubs’ decisions; it is a very real threat.”
Knight remains critical of the Premier League clubs (Bournemouth, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur) which are taking advantage of the furlough scheme. Liverpool backtracked on plans to go down the same route following pressure from fans.
Premier League clubs are still hopeful of negotiating wage cuts with players, but the Professional Footballers’ Association has objected to a 30-per-cent reduction in salaries on the basis that this would impact on taxation money going to the under-pressure National Health Service at this time.
The Premier League is eager to complete the 2019-20 season in order to avoid having to pay out £762 million to domestic and international broadcasting partners for untelevised matches, but, with UK deaths from the pandemic mounting and the UK still under a partial lockdown, there are no provisional dates for a resumption.
The emergency has had an impact across the English game, with the Football Association facing losses of up £150 million as a result of postponed England matches, FA Cup ties and events at Wembley Stadium, according to its chief executive Mark Bullingham, and senior officials at the governing body have taken pay cuts.
A report from Oakwell Sports Advisory this week claimed that clubs in the lower-tier English Football League stand to miss out on total combined revenue of £170 million if the 2019-20 season is not completed.
Speaking to the FA council yesterday, chairman Greg Clarke said: “Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it. The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer.
“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.”
LaLiga president Javier Tebas yesterday reiterated the potential economic damage to Spanish soccer, but stressed that the top European league remained committed to finishing their seasons.
With the campaign presently suspended, he claimed that LaLiga had lost 25 per cent of its annual income in two months, and that the cost of not completing the season was €1 billion, a figure that would be reduced to €300 million if matches can be played behind closed doors.
As with the Premier League, LaLiga is pressing for blanket player wage cuts, but Tebas said it would not seek state aid.
The LaLiga president is in regular contact with Uefa, which is eager to finish its club competitions, and the European Club Association and European Leagues, and, closely monitoring the health situation, believes the season can be completed by August, saying: “The studies are ongoing and I feel assured that both [European and domestic] competitions will be completed.”
With this in mind, LaLiga has three proposed dates for the resumption of club training – 28 May, 6 June and 28 June – which would enable matches to take place shortly afterwards.
Asked about the possibility of cancelling the season, Tebas said: “It is only something that I would contemplate if I was asleep; if I am awake, not at all. We are not considering that; it is something that will be studied only at the point at which it absolutely has to be. I do not wish to start the debate now because it is pointless and only generates a conflict of interest.
“None of the big or medium leagues are considering terminating the season. Not returning is not an option we are thinking about at all.”
He added: “We will look at other scenarios as they occur, especially when we see what happens in April. We think we can finish in August; we think that’s viable. Uefa made a big effort to enable us to optimise the dates.”
Spain and Italy have been two of the European countries most affected by the pandemic although there are signs that the situation is improving marginally in both countries.
It was reported yesterday that Italy’s suspended Serie A was looking to resume club training sessions on 4 May.
Possible dates for the resumption of matches are 24 May, 31 May and 7 June, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, and this would allow the season to be concluded by the beginning or middle of July.
The extension of leagues seasons is complicated by player contracts which customarily run to 30 June.
However, in its recommendations issued on Tuesday, Fifa said that contracts could be extended into what would have been next season, and transfer windows moved to reduce disruption.
The governing body was responding to the analysis of a working group it had established to assess the impact of the pandemic on global soccer.
In a statement, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said he hoped the proposals will “serve to bring a measure of stability and clarity to football for the foreseeable future.”