|Liverpool may have to finish the season behind closed doors. AFP Photo|
It’s hard to actually fathom that in this day and age we are talking about the possibility of football clubs being short of cash.
But that’s exactly where we are now.
Those super-rich elite sporting institutions may have to go hat in hand to the powers that be and ask for a bail-out.
For businesses that make extortionate amounts of money and pay players and coaches the types of salary that the average Joe can only dream about, for them to even contemplate they may one day be short of a bob or two is as far-fetched as it gets.
However, in the current climate, nothing is immune to COVID-19, the pandemic that is currently ravaging just about every corner of the globe.
Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both took the unpopular step of furloughing non-playing staff. In other words, have the government pay a large chunk of their salaries during these troubled times.
This caused outrage and both clubs bowed to popular opinion (and much criticism) to reverse their decisions.
It’s been more than a month since the last Premier League match when Leicester City spanked Aston Villa by four goals to nil on March 10th, and nobody knows when the season will resume again, and more importantly, in what form.
Will matches be played behind closed doors? Will the league be scrapped and trophies just handed out according to current positions? Or will they decide to do the unthinkable (Liverpool fans look away now) and declare the entire campaign null and void?
Time will tell, although all evidence points towards option number one of completing the remaining games in empty stadiums in as short a space of time as possible.
That obviously means a huge loss in match-day revenue in both ticket sales and every other item bought by fans before, during and after the game.
But let’s look at the bigger picture.
Teams like Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Juventus also make oodles of cash from overseas support.
Look at what happens when Liverpool play in the US, or United, Barca and Juve in Asia. Stadiums are full and just about every single fan will be wearing club colours.
All of this adds up, and if finishing the season is still in doubt, the chances of holding lucrative pre-season tours to far-flung destinations are a pipe-dream at best.
The pandemic will also put a dent in transfer fees, as many clubs will surely be thinking twice about splashing out millions and millions on a new signing. Salaries too will also be affected.
But while I obviously don’t want the game I love so much to be ruined, I do feel little sympathy for those football ‘big boys’ right now. It’s the smaller top-flight clubs, and those in the lower leagues, that may never come back from such losses, where any sympathy must lie.
Liverpool will be okay. Manchester United will manage. And Barcelona and Juventus will both make it through to the other side.
Many of the teams in the English Football League and below are struggling to make ends meet at the best of times, never mind slap bang in the middle of potentially the biggest economic downturn in modern history.
And it’s those teams who can’t rely on millions of shirt sales globally to bring in much needed cash. I’m sorry Bristol Rovers fans, but in my two years of living in Hà Nội I’m still to see a local wearing the blue and white of the pirates.
When a ball is finally kicked in anger again the world will be a very different place. There will be different rules and different regulations.
And above all, there will be different priorities, and I just hope and pray the weak survive. VNS