Coronavirus forces extended English football suspension

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English football’s governing bodies decided in an emergency meeting this week to suspend all domestic fixtures until April 30 at the earliest, as well as extending the current season indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The FA and Premier League clubs agreed on the postponement of matches which presents a financial strain on football clubs, as the loss of gate receipts significantly reduces their income – thereby threatening their existence.

The English Football League have established a £50 million fund to assist its 72 member clubs in this testing period, but Staffordshire University lecturer and Sunday Times football correspondent Jonathan Northcroft feels it might not be enough to help clubs survive.

He said: “The financial crisis will affect different clubs in different ways, but it will affect them at all levels.

“Lower league clubs, for example, are heavily reliant on income streams and less money from television and more from gate receipts so they’re going to be extremely affected by any hiatus.

“Although the EFL have some sort of bailout plans, I suspect it will perhaps not quite be enough to stop clubs going to the wall.”  

The suspension of fixtures is potentially most damaging for clubs with existing financial struggles like Macclesfield Town.

An anonymous employee from within the club expressed his concerns about how the Staffordshire-based outfit will struggle over the coming months, contributing to job insecurity for all staff.

He said: “We’ve got zero games coming up for April, probably not even May and then into summer so that’s three months without any money coming in at all. That will just be absolutely catastrophic.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s scary because I’m probably going to lose my job if it gets really bad. I know people at other clubs are going to lose their jobs too and that’s just what happens in football.”

The delayed football matches are likely to encroach onto next season and impact the football calendar in the coming year, creating issues pertaining to expiring player contracts, transfer windows, and fixture congestion to name but a few.

Northcroft provided his insight on potential solutions as well as offering a hopeful perspective on the future benefits to clubs once the global pandemic subsides.

He said: “Looking at next season and all the calendar issues, that might be solved by things like knocking out the FA Cup, compromising on some of the international dates, and knocking out the League Cup perhaps, but we need to sort this season out first and then consider next season after.

My hope is kind of utopian but there is a spirit of collaboration at the moment. If we can stick together and perhaps help keep clubs afloat, there’s a potential for there to be a real boom once we get back to playing because people may appreciate more the community aspect of football clubs.

“Looking at attendances after the Second World War, there was a massive boom because people wanted to go to matches again. If clubs can limp through, there’s a scope for them to boom afterwards and at least get some money back but definitely there’s going to be one or two losses.”

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