How supporters can help clubs emerge from coronavirus crisis

RESPONSIBILITY, solidarity and altruism is the key to football surviving arguably its greatest ever crisis.
Football is currently in lockdown.Football is currently in lockdown.
Football is currently in lockdown.

That is the message from leading football finance expert Kieran Maguire as clubs – particularly lower down the pyramid – struggle to cope with the ramifications of coronavirus, with fears abound that a lengthy shut-down of the game could see some go to the wall.

A £50m relief fund unveiled by the EFL to help clubs meet running costs if football’s suspension continues beyond April 30 is increasingly being viewed as a temporary panacea.

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Among those who concur with that view is University Campus of Football Business academic Chris Winn.

Winn, who formerly authored the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance, believes the short-term cash injection will only cover ‘the coming weeks’.

A significant number of clubs are reportedly preparing to bring in wage cuts or deferrals for players to ease the situation, with many within the game calling for measures from particularly Premier League outfits to ease the plight of their EFL rivals.

Former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan has proposed a ‘fighting fund’ drawn from the wages of players in the Premier League, in which the Global Salary Survey disclosed that the average basic remuneration is £61,024 a week.

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On the importance of the ‘football family’ helping each other, Maguire told The Yorkshire Post: “We have only had this for week and a half or so and it is true crisis mode, but everyone is already suffering significantly.

“Football is no better or worse off than any other part of the service sector and that is what the football industry is.

“It is about seeing the big picture. It is a bit like the stockpiling of food, if everybody acts for the greater good, then that will cause the least amount of damage to clubs and players and football is something which is so important to us.

“What has happened through this is that we all know we love football and it has really struck home how important it is.

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“Carlo Ancelotti’s comment about football being one of the most important things of the unimportant things is life has never been truer.”

It is the responsibilty of not just players and governing bodies, but also the game’s TV paymasters and supporters to also support football in its hour of need, according to Maguire.

If that means that the 2019-20 season is eventually completed behind closed doors, increasingly being seen as a pragmatic solution to a growing crisis, then fans must be accommodating of that decision and not push for financial reimbursement in the view of Maguire.

He said: “All clubs and fans have got to support each other. People have got to step aside club rivalries and point-scoring.

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“If fans start demanding money (if games are behind closed doors), it will increase the tipping point for clubs.

“There is a danger of people – as with panic buying – following those who think: ‘it is clear that the club won’t survive, I want to get my money back before it does go bust.’ But the vast majority of fans see the bigger picture.

“The TV companies will be also scared of people cancelling their subscriptions. I think what Sky and BT might do is doing something of a similar nature – maybe adding on an extra couple of months free to deals as people are not getting enough football.

“They will maybe say that if people stick with them, it allows them to stick with the football clubs.”