Football Chat Archive April 2020

Welcome to 'Football Chat' the blog by Agility Sports that shares football news & views largely around the game in England, Scotland & Europe. If you fancy yourself as a budding writer we are always happy to receive potential pieces for publication - just get in touch.

Whats It Like To See A Crowd?

As some European countries start to ease their own lockdown conditions, here in the UK we have at least another three weeks to go before people can come out of lockdown. That will take us to just over a month AFTER the English football authorities originally wanted us to re-commence the football season. With most leagues still having around ten games to go that will push us well into June EVEN IF we can get the players back up and running by the middle of May.

Let’s just assume for one minute the quickest that we can get the football season going again is mid to late May (giving players a couple of weeks of training). With nine to ten games still left in the Premier League that will give us a possible end to the season of the end of June if teams play twice a week (though that does ignore any impact that the European fixtures would have).

A more realistic re-start to the season will be the beginning of June – that would not give the teams the time to finish all games before the 30th June which brings a big problem. What happens to players that are out of contract on that date (the usual end date of players contracts) or loan players who’s deals end either on that date or before?

Take for example Dean Henderson of Sheffield United. What would happen if the season continued into July but Manchester United (potential European chasing rivals to Sheffield United) recalled him thereby weakening the Sheffield United team? Or, with Chelsea looking to seal their Champions League spot, Oliver Giroud decides not to extend his contract to the end of the season as it could damage his chances of a final lucrative move if he got injured.

One thing that is certain in any scenario is that football games (most likely any sporting games) will be played behind closed doors. No supporters, potential to be akin to training sessions with no atmosphere and all games live on TV. Let that sink in for a minute, is that really worth it just to get your fix of football? OK, for a lot of fans that aren’t able to get to live games they are used to watching on TV, but will it be a sterile game with players just going through their paces?

Whatever direction it takes, the 2019/20 football season is not going to please everyone.

Posted : 16th April 2020

It's All About The Money

They say that seven days is a long time in both politics and football, of course in these times that could be seven hours. When I went to start this blog post Liverpool were being castigated on social media for agreeing to furlough non-playing staff and applying for government aide via the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme.  But after pressure from both fans and the media, chief executive Peter Moore announced that ‘We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week and are truly sorry for that’ adding that Liverpool would  ‘opt to find alternative means’ to pay staff.

Currently this then leaves Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Bournemouth and Norwich City as Premier League clubs who have already announced they will furlough some non-playing staff using the government funding. Others such as Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Manchester United have vowed to pay their staff in full and not resort to the furlough process. Interesting that within both camps there is a mixture of the so called ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ teams.

With professional football in England on an indefinite pause, club finances are obviously going to be impacted but its how different teams deal with their losses that is going to be interesting. With so much of a clubs revenue generated from TV and commercial deals the revenue loss has been estimated at more than £100m for a leading team down to c£25m for one of the less successful.

Whilst you would have thought that club expenditure would be linked to club income, that’s not always the case especially when the Premier League clubs have a spread of ground capacities from just over 10,000 up to 75,000. So, we may expect that clubs like Norwich and Bournemouth might need help in these troubled times but should Newcastle United and Spurs really be in the same boat?

Posted : 7th April 2020

Give Me A 'B'

Belgium and Belarus. With one in Western Europe and the other in Eastern Europe their economies are in a different shape but they have many similarities. Both countries begin with the letter 'B', they are both countries with similar size populations and two countries that are obsessed with football. But it would seem that they have very different ways of managing football in a Covid-19 world.

In Belarus, the authorities have dismissed pandemic warnings as 'psychosis' and is one of the few countries in Europe that has not yet enforced a lockdown. In fact, the pro-government media is still playing down fears about the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, the Belarusian Premier League is still playing and has become popular across the world as it allows football fans to watch (and bet on) live football. Fifpro, the world footballer's union, has stated that it's 'frankly not comprehensible' how games are still continuing in the Eastern European country.

Meanwhile in Belgium, the Belgian Pro League is set to become the first major European league to be cancelled because of Covid-19. Following a day after UEFA's suspension of the Champions and Europa League's, the Belgian football authorities are understood to have made a recommendation to their general assembly with the decision to be ratified on April 15th. In a statement, the league announced 'the board of directors unanimously decided that it was not desirable, whatever the scenario envisaged, to continue the competition after 30 June.' Club Bruges, who are fifteen points clear, will be declared champions with just the issue of any promotions or relegations to be decided.

With most of Europe in lockdown, the Belgium way would appear to be the model for many of the other European leagues. The key sticking point will probably be what it usually is though - money. The Belgian league television deal will be miniscule when it's compared to the Premier League's in England.

Posted : 2nd April 2020