Two weeks on from their initial coronavirus videoconference, Uefa, their 55 constituent national associations, the European Club Association, FIFPro (the international players’ association) and other related parties will reconvene by video tomorrow to discuss the findings from working parties set up to identify ways forward for the game during the crisis.
Two weeks is a long time in this crisis; clubs will now realise there is little chance of spectator events taking place in June. When the sport resumes, it is likely to be behind closed doors, perhaps until the end of the year, threatening the viability of all cash-poor clubs dependent on ticket and other match day revenue.
Whatever ails the game, the crisis has a more profound impact on the health and livelihoods of the general population. Unknown thousands will die and scores of employers will close in the retail and leisure sector alone. In this context, a few hundred European football clubs seems irrelevant, but their viability is what Uefa will try to address tomorrow.
In a show of solidarity, players at several elite clubs in Spain, Italy and Germany have agreed to take substantial pay cuts. These actions allow their clubs to chart a course forward, but adoption lacks uniformity.
Odious English PFA chief Gordon Taylor (75), who reportedly earns over £2m per year and faced repeated calls from Chris Sutton and others to resign, has promised to obstruct English Football League clubs attempts to defer payment of wages, never mind cut them.
What happens at the elite level will be inconsequential to the lifestyles of many, but 90% of players and their clubs do not work at the elite level. Like the rest of us, they are staring into the unknown. Clubs and FIFPro will try to do what they can to recommend a deal that can be uniformly rolled out, while allowing the sport to be mothballed for the duration. This will take some creative thinking and involve getting high-value TV product on screens as soon and as often as possible, which itself opens up broadcast contracts and schedules.
There are too many layers to this mess for things to be resolved by 100 people meeting by video. Football continues unaffected in some Uefa jurisdictions, where governments feel immune to viral realities. Those who have agreed salary cuts will be happy for others to fret, while TV companies come to terms with the loss of content and revenue this season, and that they are likely to be the game’s only saviour going forward.
Our immediate concerns: nine-in-a-row and all that’s associated with it, are important, but goodness, football faces its biggest challenge since the advent of professionalism 150 years ago. There will be winners and losers from what happens next. If any club plans for the unexpected it’s Celtic. I’m hoping our corporate strategy over the last 20 years or so leaves us in a strong position.