No sports league would have arbitrarily shut down their operations if it didn’t believe the move was absolutely and indisputably necessary. The amount of money lost during a forced break in the middle of a season is tremendous, and there’s little chance of ever being able to recuperate the revenue. The coronavirus made the decision to suspend sports activity a requirement, but leagues around the world are now trying to put together contingency plans to get back to work. In the case of the English Premier League (EPL), soccer games could see a relaunch in June, but only under certain conditions. A month and a half will probably seem like an eternity for players and fans.
EPL executives have met with representatives from the league’s 20 teams, as well as health officials, to figure out how to get soccer going again, according to The Daily Mirror. They settled on a plan to get things started in June and, if the plan moves forward, games will be played in empty stadiums and players will be forced to limit contact with anyone outside the league. Additionally, if the two can come up with a mutually-beneficial alternative, the EPL and the sports broadcasting space will reach a deal that could see more games aired on TV, including on over-the-air channels where they’re currently not found.
There’s a lot at stake by keeping the season suspended, although everyone recognizes the health issues that are at risk. The EPL is earning around $5.32 billion by offering broadcast rights to overseas sports broadcasters, money that was already paid for the 2019-22 soccer periods. If the league can’t deliver, those entities could try to sue in order to recuperate part of the investment. Additionally, no soccer means sportsbooks are missing out on their major source of revenue, one that delivered $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2019.
In addition to the financial impact on businesses involved in soccer, there’s also concern for the workers in the industry. Most EPL clubs made the decision to let go much of their staff, which resulted in an increase in unemployment claims. The U.K. created a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that provides 80% of the pre-COVID-19 wages to employees, but some argue that this is not the ideal solution. Instead, they want soccer players to step up and provide assistance.
Arguments have surfaced to debate the merits of forcing players to give up portions of their million-dollar salaries to help those in need. There has been a push for players to support their clubs’ employees by relinquishing as much as 30% of their income during the crisis, but that’s a move most players aren’t willing to get behind. In response, the Professional Footballers’ Association asserts that to do so would result in a loss of around $245 million in tax revenue to the U.K. However, that assertion has not yet been verified.
If players are forced to give up parts of their salaries, then the same should be required of those with million-dollar incomes in other industries – that would be the only sensible alternative. On the other hand, a voluntary contribution on the part of the players wouldn’t be out of the question. After all, if players in Spain’s La Liga can give up 70% of their salary, U.K. players should certainly be able to make some type of concession.