It’s not looking good, is it? As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to claim lives across the world, the timelines to complete the Premier League are again in question.
The FA, UEFA, and FIFA will be left with little choice but to make a final decision within the next few weeks to allow plans for the following seasons and the incomplete domestic, European cups and outstanding internationals. There’s an air of inevitability about it all and if the Premier League is to be completed, it will have to go ahead around June behind closed doors.
The situation is incredibly changeable, with peaking numbers of deaths in Europe due to COVID-19 and one can see all European competitions being cancelled immediately. The risks posed to players are too great under the circumstances.
In this current state of confusion, the governing bodies will have to implement their plans as soon as possible so that clubs can take stock of the situation in terms of the effects of the commercial impact which could have some baring of the looming summer transfer window.
None of which is important when people are passing away on huge numbers but the reality is that if the COVID-19 virus does subside, the game needs to find a way of continuing onward.
The complete lockdown has begun to bite on the expenditure of big and small clubs. Barnet FC have placed 60 employees on notice of redundancy because they are unable to lose crucial revenue from gate receipts.
Elsewhere, it’s been announced that Tottenham Hotspur are reducing the wages of non-playing staff by 20 percent. That decision will mean 550 employees have to endure cuts to their incomes for a period of at least the next two months.
This news follows Mike Ashley’s decision to place the non-playing staff at Newcastle United on reduced wages or send them on gardening leave. The current state of affairs was summed up by Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy who said of his club’s actions:
“The club’s operations have effectively ceased, some of our fans will have lost their jobs and most will be worried about their future”
Tottenham Hotspur chairman added unsurprisingly:
“Our sponsors will be concerned about their businesses and our media partners have no certainty when we may play games again or whether we will be allowed to play in front of our fans. In the meantime, the club has an annual cost base running into hundreds of millions of pounds.”
“We have seen some of the biggest clubs in the world such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus take steps to reduce their costs.”
In other words, get used to this in the meantime because regardless of the fans’ passions, football is big business and the pruning will have to begin at the lower levels before it hits the first team. Contract extensions could now be very interesting and spiralling wages may see some big names being shipped out to balance the books.
Arsenal have acquitted themselves well during the crisis by looking to ease the financial concerns of their staff by promising to pay them even if there are no gate receipts due to the lockdown. Arsenal’s managing director Vinai Venkatesham said:
“We are truly grateful for the outstanding efforts of all our staff across the club every day.”
This covers staff until April 30, but it’s obviously anyone’s guess how long Arsenal can stick to that gesture.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has made the magnanimous gesture of being the first Premier League boss to take a voluntary pay cut during the crisis. He’s been followed by Bournemouth assistant boss Jason Tindall, Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake and Bournemouth technical director Richard Hughes.
Looking deeper at the growing crisis, the worst-case scenario is that the virus continues for five or six months and without game revenue and commercial endorsements, a well-known club could actually go to the wall.
The majority of Premier League clubs like Tottenham or Liverpool or Arsenal could probably go the distance without folding, but clubs in lower leagues or even those like Burnley or Aston Villa could fold up in their dozens. There are no big incomes from TV coverage or massive sponsorship deals and another three months may place them at risk of collapse.
Let’s hope the COVID-19 pandemic ends soon, for everyone’s sake. Stay safe. Stay tuned.