Drastic cuts in television money due to the Covid-19 pandemic would deliver the greatest blow to European elite football, said Valencia president Anil Murthy. So if the major leagues are unable to complete the season, the impact on the clubs could potentially be severe.
“No football, no TV money,” said Murthy. “Financially, this will be disastrous to all clubs and will definitely impact their operations for a few years to come. We still have 11 games of the league left. There are discussions and negotiations going on between the leagues and their respective TV rights holders to see how this will affect proceedings.
“Here in Spain, the Liga has been working very closely and actively with the clubs, and with all the major football leagues and football bodies to minimise the impact and also help the clubs prepare.
“Will the TV rights holders decide that they won’t pay anymore for the next 11 games? This is about 27 per cent or so of what we are supposed to get. Now that will have the biggest impact – the loss of TV money.”
He added: “If and when we start the league, there is a chance that it might be played closed doors. We have to accept that reality and we have to adapt to it. We have already prepared ourselves for the fact that we will not be selling any tickets for the next 11 games. It is okay, it is not the biggest factor in loss of income.”
Possible roll-on effects on transfer market
If the pandemic prolongs and the season drags beyond June, it would also affect the summer transfer market between July and August. Players’ contracts which are expiring this year usually end on June 30.
“How do you field a player who is out of contract? How do you pay him? You certainly can’t sell a player who is still playing,” he said.
“Does he collect another month of pay based on his last contract? This is a lot of money. Does the transfer window then go into another month in September? And then when do you start the league again for the new season?,” he said.
The picture should be clearer at the end of April, he believes, when hopefully the outbreak would have flattened in Europe. Italy and Spain have been the hardest hit so far. Portugal and England have begun to experience a surge of new cases.
“These are uncertainties that we need to be aware of. And plan as best as we can to contain the impact. Once again, the Liga and the Federation are working day and night to minimise the impact. Valencia are part of this process and we will contribute.”
But he hopes that European football would emerge from this crisis better prepared for the next epidemic or pandemic. “The different bodies need to work out protocols. At Valencia, we decided very early on that we must distance our players and coaching staff from the fans. For the Real Betis game on Feb 29, we were being criticised for taking what people deemed as draconian measures,” he recalled.
“Can you imagine if we allowed the kids to walk out with the players onto the field, and we come out later saying some of our players are positive with the virus? I think the parents would freak out. We decided to use common sense.
“Our players were so exposed during the match against Atalanta – the contact between players, the fluids exchanged – there was a high chance they might have contracted the virus. So we kept everyone away from them. Many clubs started following us.”
“We need to work together to work this out. Who is to say this incident is the last one?”