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Coronavirus

Below are some of the possible impacts of coronavirus on football

Health Warning

What follows are some of the implications on football of coronavirus. Future announcements may well change the course of thinking.

All information that follows is based on known facts and assumptions are stated.

It is not known whether "force majeure" could be invoked on any contract (e.g. TV deals or player contracts).

If you think you have coronavirus, follow official advice. Always look out for people less able than yourself.

YCFC - Financial Impact

York City announced a record 1,300+ season ticket sales for the 2018/9 season. Assuming a small reduction to 1,000 for the 2019/20 season, that leaves a pay on the gate attendance of 1,500. Assuming they pay an average admission of £12 that makes about £18,000 per game, or £72,000 for the 4 remaining games from Altrincham onwards. Take away VAT and that leaves City short by about £60,000 of potential pay on the day income. In the scheme of things, refreshments and programme sales will be incidental amounts of revenue.

With 1,000 season ticket holders, assuming an average ticket price of £10, that equates to £33,000 that City have received in season ticket sales to cover the last 4 home games of the season. You could argue that it should be paid back if the games are not played, alternatively, it could be discounted from renewals for next season.

A bigger impact might be on 2020/1 finances. Until games re-start and plans are known for the 2020/1, it means season ticket sales cannot commence which may cause a significant amount of income to be deferred (and some possibly lost).

Whilst the above YCFC figures are based on assumptions, they shouldn't be too far from reality.

The chairman of National League South club St Albans City stated that losing their last 4 home games would cost them about "£50,000 or 60,000", not too dissimilar to the assumed YCFC figures above.

No account of possible end of season play off games is included.

YCFC - Possible 2019/20 Scenarios

  • Season completed as soon as possible - PREFERRED OPTION,
  • Season completed as soon as possible, without fans, possibly by the end of May 2020 and then the 2020/1 season starts as planned
  • Season completed as soon as possible, with fans, possibly any time between May and the end of 2020, and then the 2020/1 season starts shortly afterwards
  • Season voided and we go again in 2020/1 in NLN - UNLIKELY
  • Current positions taken as final positions and City are promoted. In this scenario, expect lots of clubs in relegation positions to protest strongly - UNLIKELY
  • Some sort of end of seasons play off season to determine promotion (in lieu of completing league season) - UNLIKELY
  • Last ever game has already been played at Bootham Crescent - or will coronavirus mean test events cannot happen until football resumes thereby allowing City to play again at Bootham Crescent
  • If the 2019/20 season is to resume, completion will probably be squeezed into a shortened window which will most impact clubs with the most games still to play and those with more part time players who may struggle to get time off work once normality is resumed. Equally, many players will be out of contract after April 30 / June 30.

What If 2019/20 Is Voided

  • Loss of income for unplayed games
  • Still need to give consideration to promotion and relegation. With Bury's demise, the Football League needs one more club.
  • National League North and South are due to expand to 24 clubs for 2020/1, meaning 4 would expect to be promoted into it, making a total of 5 (including Bury's demise) new clubs required to keep the 3 divisions of the NL numbers as desired. With the FA voiding steps 3 downwards, it is not sure if this expansion will still occur.
  • In National League, the top 3 could all claim they still have realistic title hopes, the top 15 could claim they still have realistic play off hopes and only Chorley are so far adrift to make relegation seem very likely.
  • In both regional National Leagues, the top 4 could all claim they still have realistic title hopes, at least the top half in each league could claim they still have realistic play off hopes.
  • Given the expansion of the regional leagues, expect no teams to be relegated.
  • Clubs don't need to retain players beyond their contract end dates in April (including many on one year contracts at smaller clubs) or June as there are no more games to play. On March 27, Barrow boss Ian Evatt said he had 8 players out of contract on April 30, currently they're paid a total of £5,000 per week.
  • Planning for 2020/1 squads could start straight away, although clubs would want clarity over which league they are playing and start dates. They might want to delay making new signings (and paying wages to those signings) until there is certainly over the start date of the 2020/1 season.
  • Given a start date (and details of fan admission is known), season ticket sales could start. A decision would need to be taken over what to do with the portion of 2019/20 season ticket money covering the unplayed games could be made. Equally, if it was decided to carry on with the 2019/20 season, it would push back the time when clubs could start to sell 2020/1 season tickets (and possibly mean a shortened 2020/1 season).
  • In respect of contracts which end in summer 2020 but have performance related extension clauses (e.g. an automatic season's extension if a certain number of appearances or goals are achieved), strictly speaking players would have made no appearances and scored no goals, with the implications that has on their contracts.

YCFC - Players

Contract information is not always readily available, but from what has been stated, the following is a realistic scenario.

In January 2020, Steve Watson said he'd signed 2 players on 2 year contracts. Earlier press reports had stated 2 other players were signed on 2 year contracts. The 4 are Paddy McLaughlin, Ryan Whitley, Kieran Green and Peter Jameson.

Given City's recent years, it is highly likely that several of the 2019/20 newcomers were signed on one year contracts with an option that City could extend for a second year. Think of some of this season's newcomers, possibly McNulty, Maguire and Bond included.

For the others, they will be on one year contracts that will end on June 30 (or maybe in some instances on April 30). Those players would be receive no pay from City after their contract ends and would be free to sign for a new club.

Note, it is possible that some players whose contracts were due to end this year have already had their contracts extended, however, nothing has been published.

Given coronavirus, it is quite possible that until football's calendar is confirmed and matches are underway, then it is possible that many club's would not want to commit to new contracts (especially if they don't know which division they be in next season).

YCFC - 2020/1

Once again, Jason McGill / JMP have stated that funding is available to cover City's next season as per the 2018/9 accounts published in March 2020). Previous statements had said such funding was in pace until YCFC moved to Monks Cross.

It is believed that no public announcement has been made on funding for the 2020/1 season.

Regardless of which division City play in during the 2020/1 season, central funding will be relatively small and there is probably little significant difference in the amount regardless of which league City play in.

At the end of the 2019/20 season, just one team is due to be relegated from Division 2 and 2 promoted from National League. This will restore the Football League to 92 clubs following Bury's demise. Consequently, the National League will be left with just 23 clubs. Some shuffling will see it restored to 24 clubs (3 (not 4) relegated, or (less likely) more promoted).

Given football's finances, it is always possible that one (or more) clubs might not make it leading to more shuffling to maintain the expected number in each division.

Premier League / English Football League - Financial Impacts

Using best available data, across the PL / EFL, following the suspension of PL / EFL football on March 13, the loss of income might be something like the numbers below.

They assume 70% of attendance is season ticket holders, £3 per spectator spend at ground (equally split between profit and cost) and TV revenues excluded. No consideration is given to the season ticket revenues already received that cover the games at the end of the season.

The PFA are usually very firm in contracts being paid in full, so it will take them and other parties to agree to any wage reductions to see clubs through the lockdown.

League

Attendance

Season Ticket Holders

Pay On Gate

Match Day Ticket Price (£)

Gate Take (£k)

In Ground Spend Profit (£k)

Total Match Day Take (£k)

Premier League

36,000

25,200

10,800

30

270

54

324

Championship

19,000

13,300

5,700

25

119

29

148

League 1

8,800

6,160

2,640

20

44

13

57

League 2

4,500

3,150

1,350

20

23

7

30

So, based on an average Premier League crowds of 36,000, there is a loss of match day revenue of £324,000. However, it must be noted, many clubs are far from the average, Manchester United and Bournemouth being the extremes.

Elsewhere, Division 1 and Division 2 clubs collectively put their loss if the remaining games are not played slightly higher at about £50m.

With some clubs already in financial trouble, both Southend and Macclesfield were late paying February wages, the impact of no match day revenues may be fairly immediate for some clubs.

Going forward, any plans to have a truncated 2020/1 season will have to assess the impact on club finances. Any reduction in games will have an impact on income.

On March 18, The EFL agreed to release £50m short term relief fund to help clubs, a mix of early release of solidarity / award payments (totalling almost £30m) and an interest free loan facility. Championship clubs will receive their remaining £800,000 award payment from the Premier League and be able to apply for a £584,000 interest free loan. For League One clubs, the figures are £250,000 and £182,800 and for League Two clubs £164,000 and £119,800.

On March 19, Steve Thompson, Dagenham and Redbridge FC MD said the National League may need up to £20m of government money to help survive the impact of the coronavirus and believes the National League is not in a position to be able to offer a relief package to its members. The full figure looks high compared to the EFL's £50m, equating to £294,000 for each of the 68 clubs.

On other impacts / shortfalls include:

  • On March 17, Barnet announced, "We are in unprecedented times and as such, certain decisions have been made across the football group to ensure the longevity of Barnet Football Club. Over the past few days, we have taken emergency measures to preserve the Club and ensure it remains sustainable. Since relegation (2018), we have seen a general drop in crowd attendances of 50%, whilst general costs have increased resulting in operational losses of approximately £100,000 per month. The Club budgeted for this in the hope of promotion but of course, at the end of April, all of our parachute funding will cease and we need to therefore make savings accordingly. In addition to these challenges, we have to consider the greater challenge of the impact that Covid-19 will have in the immediate and long-term future. In order to meet the challenges ahead of us, we will have to dismantle our existing cost structure and look to rebuild for next season with a much leaner cost base. We have therefore taken the difficult decision to put all Barnet FC staff on notice. This is to include all first team, coaching and backroom staff, the Barnet FC Academy and many of the operational staff across all areas of the Club. With heavy losses already occurred over the past 2 seasons, cynics might say it is using coronavirus to bury bad news. Later, Barnet said their monthly player wage bill is about £100,000 which represents about 80% - 90% of total costs.
  • On the same day, Kings Lynn estimated a loss of £100,000 if their final 4 home games were not completed and appealed for fans to help them cover club costs whilst Boston admitted that they were heading for "challenging times" in paying staff and player wages without the income from match days.
  • On March 19, Chester put the loss of 5 match days revenues, lower, at about £50,000.
  • On March 23, the AFC Fylde chairman stated his club's annual wage bill was about one million pounds with his top earner being on a basic wage of £900 per week.
  • Yeovil estimated the suspension of league fixtures would create a £400,000 financial hole by the end of June following their relegation from Division 2 a year earlier, they have higher operating costs than many non league clubs with 12 players contracted beyond the planned season end date of April, including 9 contracted until June 2021. Yeovil’s highest earner is on about £1,200 a week.
  • Chesterfield take £25,000 as an average on match day and £60,000 a month from their stadium banqueting facilities.
  • Northern Premier League club Basford United estimate that over 4 months, they will suffer a £100,000 impact, with 20% of their turnover being match related, the closure of their grounds and training facilities will have a big impact as 3 East Midland league clubs use the grounds as well as various local clubs and leagues.
  • On March 27, Barrow boss Ian Evatt, top of National League said the central funding for the National League football was worth £60,000 (he later said £80,000) compared to £1,200,000 in Division 2.
  • Burnley put the loss of their last 5 home matches at £5m and TV losses for the rest of the season at another £45m.
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Premier League / English Football League - Transfer / Contract Impacts

With contracts ending on June 30, consideration will need to be given to squads playing 2019/20 season game after June 30 2020.

Hakim Ziyech has already signed a contract for Chelsea, can he play in 2019/20 games for them after this date, or will he be ineligible. He has no contract beyond June 30 with Ajax so wouldn't be able to play for Ajax.

Equally, Oliver Giroud is out of contract after June 30, even if FIFA allow out of contract players to play for their existing club after this date, there is nothing to say the player has to sign an extension or to play for his existing club.

FIFA need to determine what the rules are for eligibility for 2019/20 season games played after June 30. If they decide out of contract players can only play for their current club, that might influence some players to sign a short term extension to ensure they are paid.

FIFA need to confirm any changes to the summer transfer window based on any revisions to the planned 2020/1 season dates.

Wider General Principles

  • Expect all proposed solutions to favour those making the proposal
  • You can't please all of the people all of the time
  • There may not be as much money generated as usual when football resumes (e.g. stay away fans, people can't afford it due to lose of earnings, too many games too quickly, other (summer) interests take precedence. Cricket is planning on a July 16 resumption and forecasting bumper crowds for T20 / The Hundred due to pent up demand for live sport)
  • Whatever is the agreed course of action today can easily change by tomorrow (or sooner)
  • Hearts are one club that have asked all the staff to take a 50% pay cut, in the case of players, contracts are "enshrined in football law" and can't be re-negotiated down, you never see a club unilaterally sacking a player if they don't like him
  • Contracts expire on June 30 (or April 30 in some lower league cases), so there is no obligation on any player to sign an extension beyond that date, indeed, some have already announced they're moving on that date (e.g. Hakim Ziyech, Ajax - Chelsea)
  • Expect the longer the lock down exists, the less resistance there will be to behind closed doors football
  • In a fast moving environment, dates for a return of football should be taken as guide dates, expect a formal announcement of a return date to be made a couple of weeks (or more) before the return date to give clubs proper time to prepare (including player fitness and match logistics)
  • The longer the lockdown and the absence of football lasts, the greater the impact will be of trying to complete the 2019/20 season
  • Although tax is a complicated subject, anyone who pays tax in the UK should be able to claim tax relief on any charity donation they make. In the case of Gordon Taylor, he announced he'd made a £500,000 donation, if so his charity will receive £625,000 and after tax rebate, it will have cost Gordon just £375,000. As a donation, its money that he will never see again. Surely a tax effective solution for any high paid footballer
  • In China, the first cases were reported on December 31st (2019), by January 21st there were 278 cases when it started to become a news item in the western world. The number soared to over 76,000 by February 22. Since then, it has been a trickle of new cases every day in China. Let's hope the western profile mirrors that rather than the 3+ months that have been mentioned.

Scheduled World Calendar

  • June - July 2020: European Championships (Europe wide) - POSTPONED TO SUMMER 2021
  • June - July 2020: Copa America (Argentina / Columbia) - POSTPONED TO SUMMER 2021
  • June 2021: European Under 21 Championship (Hungary) - POSTPONED TO SUMMER 2022
  • June 2021: European Nations Cup (Semi finals and final, venue tbc) - NO DECISION - UNLIKELY IN 2021
  • June - July 2021: Women's European Championship (England) - POSTPONED TO SUMMER 2022
  • June - July 2021: New FIFA 24 team World Club Championship (China) - DELAYED, NO NEW DATE ANNOUNCED
  • 2021/2 Season: Expect leagues to both start / finish slightly earlier than usual due to the 2022 World Cup.
  • 2022/3 Season: Expect leagues to start slightly earlier / finish slightly later than usual due to the 2022 World Cup.
  • November - December 2022: World Cup (Qatar)
  • Summer 2023: Women's World Cup

New Calendar

Given football's hierarchy (and self interests), it is highly likely that FIFA and / or UEFA will set the agenda on any revision to football's calendar.

They both have their business partners and won't want to see any adverse impact on their revenues from those business partners.

Accordingly, it is likely that domestic leagues will have to dovetail with FIFA / UEFA dates, although that may be dependent on each individual country's recovery from coronavirus (and taking into account any regional specific conditions / isolation). UEFA have a stated target of June 30th to complete the 2019/20 league season across Europe.

Planning will need to take into account the close season between 2019/20 and 2020/21 and the time needed to sign new players and go through pre-season training.

Premier League / English Football League - Composition

Somewhere along the line, the football pyramid needs to shuffle to take account of Bury's demise.

It has been agreed that only one team will be relegated from Division 2 with 2 teams promoted from the National League. That will mean an imbalance in National League which will probably be resolved by relegation to the regional National Leagues of only 3 clubs rather than the usual 4.

For 2020/1, it had already been agreed that the regional National Leagues will each be increased by 2 clubs to 24. It is believed that this has been deferred due to coronavirus.

Another thought has promotion only (no relegation) throughout the pyramid at the end of the 2019/20 season, resulting in 22 teams (assuming no team promoted via the play off) in the 2020/1 Premier League with respectively 25 (3 promoted into it) / 24 (4 promoted into it) / 22 (lose 4 to D1 and 2 promoted) in the EFL divisions. Not sure if Premier League clubs would want to split the monies 22 ways rather than 20 and indeed where they'd fit in an extra 4 games.

Premier League / English Football League - Finances & Random Thoughts

Very few people will have seen the small print of the TV deals and finances involving the PL / EFL clubs.

It has widely been quoted that the Sky / BT TV deal values each televised game at over £11,000,000. It is the TV money that funds prize money. For 2018/9 in the Premier League, it ranged from Huddersfield's £93.6m up to Liverpool's £149m. The TV deal also funds the £140m that is distributed annually as "solidarity payments" to EFL clubs and for the 4 NL teams who've been relegated from the EFL in the past 2 seasons.

If the TV companies claw back any money from the PL from their TV deals, a realistic knock on effect is that the PL reduce their "solidarity payments". TV companies might see that as a reasonable stance if this season's games are lost or a truncated 2020/1 season is played.

One suggestion, made by Karen Brady and others, is to void the 2019/20 season and go straight into a 2020/1 season. An eminently sensible suggestion, but would they "null and void" their pounds100m+ TV income from the "null and void" season?

Equally, given those TV deals and the amounts involved, what would the PL league clubs think of possibly losing 10% of it (say an average of £12.5m each) to fund a 22 team Premier League?

Games played behind closed doors will have financial implications. Loss of income to clubs, loss of tax to government and loss of business in the locality of grounds.

June 30 is a key date. Note only is that the date playing contracts generally finish, it is also the date when many club commercial contracts finish / start (e.g. shirt sponsorship).

1970s Boils

City’s players endured, in the words of Phil Burrows, “appalling unhygienic” changing room conditions in the early 1970s. It was one of the reasons that City's players almost went on strike at the time.

Much later when visiting YCS both Chris Jones and Graeme Crawford referenced those conditions and what they described as being plagued by ongoing boils.

Read More from Chris Jones and Graeme Crawford.

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