Football Business In A Pandemic Age

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to suspend activities around the world. With very few exceptions football has stopped. All sports and indeed all of humanity are in uncharted territory.

Plans for a return to regular football are difficult to formulate. In the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 spread talk was of a May to June completion of the 2019-2020 Serie A season. Other leagues and competitions had similar plans. Putting a value on any return date seemed risky and it has now become even more tricky.

Increasing talk of a longer suspension and continuous need for social distancing and self isolation puts all guesses in doubt. The importance of listening to health officials is apparent to most with a conclusion to football games taking a back seat. Clubs are now postponing optimistic dates for a return to training in advance of games that would have concluded the season. UEFA – with Champions League last 16 and Europa League last 32 still yet to play – and leagues around the world simply can not risk players’ or fans’ health. A few voices still mention playing games behind closed doors but those are just whispers and hopes. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin also dreams of a season concluding properly but football is increasingly moving towards a complete cancellation of the current season to counting the financial aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

When July first arrives many players will be out of contract with even less certainty than others. They will be free agents until football resumes. Some may be able to secure a sort of extension, at least in good faith with their current teams but others will have to sit this out and find a new team deeper into 2020. The teams themselves will have a hard time calculating their annual numbers that depend on amortization of contracts and income from pending transfers.

Teams directly employ many at the stadiums and other outlets too. All, rich and poor, will be impacted and some teams may even go bankrupt. At Juventus the player have pledged to not collect a portion of their salary therefore saving the club upwards of €90 million. Other teams may need to follow and some will just impose a reduction unilaterally.

Others that work at clubs require help from team owners and some may receive the help from government package. One thing is for sure, this is unseen territory with many unknowns.