A stark warning for football clubs in this country.
Huddersfield owner Phil Hodgkinson says that people are currently ‘sticking their heads in the sand’ with regard to the challenges that confront football.
Hodgkinson believes that unless there is a cohesive plan agreed throughout all levels of football: ‘will be looking at 50 or 60 clubs ceasing to exist.’
The Huddersfield boss thinks that everybody has to look beyond completing / restarting this 2019/20 season because the ‘bigger picture’ is a financial catastrophe unless measures are agreed and put in place now.
One of his suggestions is that players in all divisions need to accept pay cuts and these could have to be as high as 50% to save anything resembling the football pyramid as we know it in England.
Whilst some fans of Premier League clubs will think this is something that doesn’t apply to them, that would be a very selfish and overly short-term view. We need as many clubs as possible to survive this virus crisis and not just think it is tough luck for those clubs who happen to find themselves outside the top tier at the moment.
The massive problem for those clubs outside the Premier League is that they are overwhelmingly reliant on matchday revenue and the Huddersfield owner reveals: ‘We have been told by the government that there will be no large gatherings until there is a vaccine and that is likely to be in 2021.’
Even if Premier League matches are able to restart successfully, will all of the revenues that aren’t matchday ones based on people inside stadiums, remain as high, will broadcasters and sponsors all be obliged to pay full price?
This is of course a harsh wake-up call for any football fans, including Newcastle United / Premier League supporters, who thought they might be able to get into games any time early in the 2020/21 season.
There is indeed no guarantee that a relatively effective vaccine will ever be developed, though of course we all desperately hope so.
A reality check in particular for those fans who have said we shouldn’t bother playing any games, until people are allowed in to watch. That makes zero sense because you could be then left with no games played for potentially up to a year or so.
We all need the Premier League especially to be back playing as soon as possible because without the money generated by the PL that trickles down to the lower divisions, there will be no pot of cash to allow that to happen. Never mind all the extra cash and savings that the Huddersfield owner says will be necessary.
Huddersfield owner Phil Hodgkinson talking to BBC Sport:
“The problem is not whether we finish [this] season or not, it is what happens after that.
“If we don’t come to an agreement there will be no football pyramid. There are clubs I know of that are only still trading because they are deferring wages and [tax] and other creditors. They will need paying at some point.
“There is an absolutely real, stark probability that if something isn’t agreed now within football to ensure all clubs can pay their bills and get through to the point where income is resumed, you will be looking at 50 or 60 clubs ceasing to exist.
“Genuinely, I am talking about that many.
‘What is football going to do to ensure the entire pyramid survives?’
“It will cost each club between £150,000 and £200,000 for testing to get to the end of the season, but what happens after that?
“We have been told by the government that there will be no large gatherings until there is a vaccine and that is likely to be in 2021.
“That means football clubs will lose a vast proportion of their income outside of any broadcast money, which is likely to be significantly reduced or clawed back anyway.
“In normal revenue, we are looking at losing between £7m and £10m. The claw-back for TV is going to be £10m-£30m. That is just us.
“So, what is football going to do to ensure the entire pyramid survives this? The discussion is being avoided. For the next three, six or 12 months clubs are going to have no income.
“The players are not to blame but the reality is, the players have to be part of the solution because if clubs go bust, their contracts won’t get met anyway.
“They may not like me saying this, but the PFA need to put in place salary cuts of between 30% and 50% for all players at all levels until such a time as crowds are allowed back into football stadiums and income streams return.
“These are ideas. They may not be the right ones but something has to be done because everyone knows what is coming and people are just sticking their heads in the sand.”