Uefa’s videoconference yesterday moved the prospect of domestic league football in late summer a step closer. It is likely the lockdown across Europe will be lifted gradually, with mass public events like football games being the very last permitted activity.
That being the case, it is likely that some leagues will be underway behind closed doors in July, with many more in August. Football will be back, TV contracts will be compromised but not completely discarded, so there will be some income, but without ticket revenue, the consequences for most Scottish clubs will be significant.
Most Hearts players have taken a lead from the (odious, remember) Gordon Taylor, PFA chief in England, by offering to defer their wages, not take an actual cut. Ticket revenue is almost an irrelevant figure for the English top flight, becoming less so as you go down the divisions, so a deferment works at the top level there.
But it is pointless to Hearts. There is a real prospect that clubs will not be allowed to sell a match ticket this year. As with England, those at the top of the tree will cope better, but all will face consequences and even the likes of Hearts will do well to survive without an insolvency event unless they can significantly cut their wage bill.
Gordon Taylor’s >£2m salary is not sustainable if his members are not earning full wages and paying significant union fees. It is against his financial interest to acquiesce to calls from the English Football League for an across the board wage cut. While this battle goes on in England, the same debate will happen in Scotland.
The crisis is likely to come to a head in the English Championship, which operates in normal times to the norms of voodoo economics, but will be wiped out without their normal income streams. There, some well-off footballers will lose their incomes. Below the Championship, it is hard to see a viable employer. Ironically, lower league clubs in Scotland can furlough all their staff, including players, who will not be offended by a £2500 monthly cap. The crunch in Scotland will come in the top flight, where valuable contracts are at stake.
It could take weeks for this to play out, with millionaires holding firm against the backdrop of horrendous levels of anxiety, joblessness, poverty and death in the community. I predict Steven Naismith, who unilaterally accepted a 50% wage cut, is one of the few footballers you admire when this is all over, despite his personal history. A phrase I never expected to type, but these are exceptional times.
I was shocked then angry when I heard the UK death figures yesterday, weeks before the peak is due. Our governments and their advisers have no master plan out of this one, and there are too many people still taking risks. Each household is on its own, so stay at home.