EFL clubs have been ‘taken out at the knees’ by coronavirus pandemic

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May 3, 2020
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    Bradford City

    Last week League Two side Bradford City suspended season-ticket sales for the 2020-21 season.

    Clubs in the EFL face a bleak future as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, says football finance expert Kieran Maguire.

    No return date for football below the Premier League has been put in place.

    Clubs are facing the possibility that they may be playing behind closed doors until January when they do return to action.

    “The industry has been effectively taken out at the knees as a result of the pandemic,” Maguire said.

    “Both Macclesfield and Southend failed to pay wages in February. Oldham didn’t pay their March wages until, I think, two days ago, so there’s a backlog in terms of wages being paid.

    “How clubs can address that is beyond me if there is no money coming in through the turnstiles, which accounts for around 40-50% of total income for some League One and League Two clubs.”

    The EFL will follow the government’s guidelines before making any decisions on whether or not the 2019-20 season can resume, how the issues of promotion and relegation will be decided if not, and when fans can attend matches.

    ‘Game was living at the edge before pandemic’

    Although clubs could see their income boosted by streaming games which are played behind closed doors, this is unlikely to help clubs in the Championship where Maguire suggests cumulative losses for the past year could be “around £650m”.

    He added: “The game was living at the edge before the pandemic.

    “It’s not a sustainable business model unless you have sugar daddies who are prepared to write out those cheques for £20-30m a year – which to give them credit, most of them have been keen to do for reasons nobody has ever quite managed to fathom.

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    “But if we now move to a situation where there’s no money coming in, those losses of £20-30m a year in the Championship could easily extend.”

    Cardiff boss Neil Harris said on Saturday that he expects player wages to fall and the game to “adjust” when football returns.

    He told BBC Wales Sport: “I think football in general and as a whole, I think it will reshape it, starting in the lower leagues upwards.

    “We are seeing conversations in League One and League Two about salary caps, spending per team, and I think that can only be a good thing to get the game going again.”

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