There’s been much talk around football over recent months, about when, or even if, the sport will resume. Most of the major executives believed that it should - as soon as it was safe to do so - as it was in the best interest of football. Besides, it would protect the integrity and also financial well-being of the game.
Germany had led the way in allowing training to resume and eventually Bundesliga games started again behind closed doors and with strict safety measures in place. After five rounds of Bundesliga, we’re witnessing its success, as viewing figures have skyrocketed in a sport-starved world. Other minor leagues have also resumed, as football games begin again in Spain, Italy, and England, with only France of the "Big 5" European leagues opting to call off the 2019/20 season.
The Bundesliga has laid down the blueprint for football to return and been fine-tuning the process. The latest innovation has been the addition of artificial "crowd noise" that has been praised and actually makes for a far better viewing experience.
Money, especially television money has dictated what happens in football for many years. The pandemic isn’t going to change that, but it causes a difference in the amount of money paid to the television deals, how the money is allocated by the leagues, and spent by the clubs. Perhaps even football supporters will be given a little more say and consideration, as everyone agrees that football behind closed doors is not the same, and is a less palatable, even less saleable product.
It took only a couple of weeks, during the pandemic, to realize in how bad state football actually is and what effects the pandemic has, despite it being seemingly awash with money.
German clubs were no better off than those in most other European countries.
According to an internal DFL (German Football League) report from late March, "at least 13 of the 36 Bundesliga and second-division sides face insolvency by May or June if the season does not restart fairly quickly. "Twelve of these 13 clubs had already guaranteed the fourth and last installment of this season's television rights money (not yet paid at that time) to creditors."
Ligue 1 claimed they held "absolutely no funds" and that it had "all been passed on to clubs".
It took just a matter of weeks without games for clubs all over Europe to be claiming to be in financial danger. Players were asked to defer or forgo salaries, whereas some did not need to be asked and volunteered to do so, and the staff was "furloughed" even at some "wealthy" clubs.
We learned that the Premier League held over £1.8bn of liquid funds, and it is a real buffer against events such as these. They "advanced" £125m to the EFL and National League clubs. But this was not a donation, just a payment due in August which was brought forward, 5th tier clubs received circa £58k, those in the level below £13k.
The average Premier League salary is £60k per week. Basically, every EPL club is receiving the same as all the other clubs in the English football pyramid combined. The Premier League TV deals are more than double those of the next richest European league, so more money could be shared without it overly affecting the financial dominance of the top flight English clubs.
Football is an entertainment business, however, given the perilous financial state of the game, clubs will have to accept a lesser share and transfer fees and salaries will have to be cut in tandem. Would that be such a terrible thing? During the pandemic, a lot of clubs have had a major wake up calls. It might require a transfer and/or salary cap at some stage, as all US sports operate a salary cap of sorts.
This is an opportunity to press the reset button, we cannot have a situation where the loss of football, even a few weeks, puts the whole sport at risk.