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How COVID-19 Could Affect the Transfer Market?

It’s a good question and the truth is, no-one knows the answer.

But the longer this pandemic goes on, the more the worry will grow, the heightened the fear will be that football’s gravy train could be derailed.

That it could lead to salary cuts or deferrals and the most lucrative television deal in football history cut significantly.

Some big clubs have already started the process with Juventus stars holding off their salary for the next four months.

Likewise, Barcelona players will take a 70% pay cut during the pandemic and make additional contributions to ensure non-sporting staff receive full wages.

Captain Lionel Messi said the move was delayed as the players were ‘looking for a formula to help the club’ – possibly having a swipe at his employer at the same time.

Elsewhere, big Championship clubs like Birmingham have deferred 50 per cent of their players’ salaries and Leeds players volunteered for the same as the club, losing several million a month, tries to maintain employment for 272 full-time, non-football staff.

Yet it is in the world beyond the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A that the chill is at its harshest because that is where clubs rely on gate receipts to contribute to a wage bill and survive.

A newspaper feature last weekend reported that, for many clubs, hospitality and conferencing streams built up to make their stadium earn money beyond match-days will take years to recover.

And so, what of the knock-on effect on the transfer market?

Seasoned writer Martin Samuel says the market will certainly look very different when it finally reopens. Perhaps he is correct when he asks which clubs will be willing to part with £100 million-plus worth of hard cash to bid for Jadon Sancho this summer. Who would take gambles like this in the post-Coronavirus climate?

Jadon Sacho is being linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer transfer window
Jadon Sancho reacts during the match between Borussia Dortmund and SC Freiburg

It does not compute that £100m can be spent on players or £20m on agent fees by a club that has lived through COVID-19 and knows the cost.

By the time this is over, there will be barely a business that has been unaffected. The firms that sponsor, that buy the executive boxes, that broadcast, that buy the adverts that frame those broadcasts, all will be operating on a reduced budget.

Ever-changing circumstances. Some clubs could go to the wall.

Football also faces a greater threat the longer the game remains in limbo. Lower and non-league clubs stand at the most serious risk but top-flight clubs will suffer as well. Expect that to be reflected in the transfer market.

As it stands, the start of the window (due to open on June 10) will almost certainly be delayed. Indeed, who knows if we’ll have even seen a return to competitive action by then.

If the season resumes, stadiums may not sell out until people feel secure that the pandemic is, if not eliminated, then contained. While Premier League teams rely more on revenues from broadcasting, sponsors and merchandise, they will still feel a pinch without bums on seats. In addition, fans who lost income due to employers closing up shop will have less money themselves and therefore will be less likely to buy tickets and merchandise.

As well as those already committed, other clubs across England’s professional leagues are also looking at the potential of deferrals, pay cuts and wage caps to help keep their finances and help them cope with the monetary burden they face.

Incidentally, the prospect of playing staff simply continuing to play beyond the end of June without a contract seems a non-starter.

One idea is to extend the summer window to late into the year — giving teams breathing space financially and with building their squads.

Yet what looked like a summer of exciting transfer moves is certainly being viewed differently right now. The state of this 2019/20 season has left just about every player and team in a state of flux.

These are unprecedented times across the world, and giant football clubs are having to adjust to the impact of COVID-19 as quickly as the rest of us.

Oh, how football fans and players must yearn for a return to match days when the action on the pitch was as thrilling as it was escapism from events off it.

There’s a long way to go before we can start talking football, let alone transfers, it seems.

 

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