Sport

The coronavirus outbreak may actually benefit football in the long run.

It’s so unbelievably annoying that there is no football on at the moment. It feels like something intrinsic is missing from the weekly routine. You do your work for the week, you get to the weekend and you can relax and either go to the football or watch on tv. That’s the way the week goes. Without it, the week feels very empty. If you’re having to stay home from work, then your week is even emptier than it would normally be anyway. However, nearly all clubs are in negotiations with their players about wage deferrals to help either keep the club afloat or to ensure the club can continue to pay non-playing staff throughout the crisis. AS Roma’s entire first team squad and first team coaching staff have voluntarily given up four months wages and will also help to top up the wages of other club employees to make sure they are paid in full and can get through the ordeal.

But one thing the current suspension in the season may lead to is a huge decrease expenditure in the transfer market. The fact will be that many clubs simply will not be able to afford to pay huge amounts of money or pay massive wages because they aren’t getting the revenue in from matchdays or from TV rights. One former director of  football has even said that he can see only three clubs spending at all in the next transfer window. And I think that would actually be a good thing. Transfer fees have been getting increasingly stupid ever since Cristiano Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid for £80 million. The stupid cake of transfer fees was topped off in 2017 when in one summer, Paris Saint-Germain paid £200 million for Neymar and loaned Kylian Mbappe with an obligation to pay over £160 million the next summer. That is truly ridiculous. And the wages these people earn beggars belief. Now I do not dispute that they absolutely should be paid, to suggest otherwise would be silly. And as they compete in a team sport for a season, it would be silly to try and pay them only in prize money like you might a boxer or a tennis player. But earning £100,000 a week, let alone anything above that just gets stupid. Even after they’ve paid tax, footballers will still be able to live more than comfortably. It just seems silly to earn that as a weekly wage.

If clubs have to calm down their spending and the wages they offer, especially to the star players, then I think that can only be a good thing. It had gotten silly before. Things like salary caps and proper imposed budget caps might need to be introduced. Tony Bloom, chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion, has called for a salary cap at the very least but has acknowledged that it could be very difficult to actually implement such a plan. But it could be key to making sure the Premier League can survive anything approaching this situation again. I would be very surprised if clubs hadn’t now developed some sort of contingency plan for this type of situation that may well involve something like automatic wage deferrals that are agreed between the players and the club to try and keep as many people in a job and being paid as possible for when a season may be interrupted again.

At a time when hard working people are losing jobs to the disruption caused by this pandemic, a harsh light was always going to be shone on an area that has long been criticised within the game. These players are earning thousands of times what those working on the frontline of combating this virus do, and the fees paid by clubs to sign them is ridiculous. If the impact on football apart from delaying the season far beyond its normal conclusion is to make clubs think twice before paying exorbitant fees and wages, then I say the game could be better off for it. Whoever bids for television rights needs to make it clear as well that they will no longer pay hand over fist to be able to cover the Premier League. That’s how many clubs were able to pay the huge wages of their star players. That era needs to end. Certainly, we all have to make a living, but these players are earning stupid amounts of money every single week. And that is just absurd.

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