Premier League season too valuable to void

Date: Thursday 16th April 2020 at 9:19 pm
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Vincent Kompany lifts the 2019 Premier League trophy

Global broadcasting deals and betting interests mean that completing the Premier League season is too valuable for it to be voided.

The 2019-20 campaign remains suspended indefinitely due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, but billions of pounds of vested interests are riding on it being completed rather than expunged from the records.

Broadcasters across the world pay huge sums to show the Premier League to big audiences and they need their product.

Betting companies could stand to lose billions on having to refund open bets, if the season is scrapped. Many clubs have betting brands as their shirt sponsors and the entire football league is sponsored by Sky Bet.

The Premier League is due to meet on Friday, to discuss options for how and when the season could be completed and concerns linger over how long the campaign can realistically remain in limbo, until it would no longer be viable to complete it.

Clubs are beginning to worry about their financial futures, as they rely on revenue from broadcasting deals, commercial arrangements and matchday income.

A tangled web of health and legal factors complicate the short-term, medium-term and long-term ramifications for professional football.

Many observers have stated that football needs the integrity of a paying crowd, as football without fans is nothing, but crowds of any sort look some way off being possible while coronavirus ravages daily life.

Government advice on what you can and cannot do states that “gatherings of more than two people in parks and other public spaces have been banned”.

Playing matches behind closed doors has often been mentioned as a way around this, with a controlled environment of training facilities, hotels, stadia and associated logistics mooted for the Midlands, but this fails to acknowledge minimum health requirements for even that to be feasible.

Matches behind closed doors are no mean feat and require a small army to achieve even a minimum viable product. A minimum viable football match might need over 100 people, which is a long way from the current two.

Any professional match requires a minimum of two fit squads, coaching staff, officiating staff and stadium staff to stage a viable contest.

Factor in broadcasters plus matchday needs like goalline technology and VAR and even contests without thousands of observing supporters look a formidable ask right now.

All involved will have to be free from coronavirus from the start and be tested frequently to remain so, for the remaining 92 Premier League games to stand a chance to be completed. Any fresh infections and those implicated will have to be isolated afresh, causing more delay.

Several further key factors are at risk of being compromised should the return to action be postponed beyond the end of June.

Player contract cycles mean that some deals and loan spells are due to end on 30 June, complicating how those timelines could be extended and the resultant impact on the expected summer transfer window.

The Premier League will have to align their plans with the bigger global picture, in sync with UEFA and FIFA. UEFA is expected to discuss a proposal on 23 April for the overall European season to end with the Champions League Final on 29 August.

The impact of the pandemic will accelerate how global football calendars are reconsidered with the timing of the 2022 winter World Cup in Qatar.

The paused current season offers a window to restructure the calendar in advance of that tournament, to allow the existing campaign to be completed and for the following seasons to be rescheduled after the World Cup.

Football will have to develop a new normal, get used to it and be ready for further change, should coronavirus return or be usurped by something comparable.

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