In the latest Baltic Triangle Podcast, University of Liverpool academic Dr Rogan Taylor says the lack of fans due to COVID-19 puts Premier League football clubs in a perilous position. Tony McDonough reports
Football is facing a global crisis due to COVID-19 and even the world’s biggest clubs may find themselves fighting for survival, a leading Liverpool academic says.
Dr Rogan Taylor is director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool and is also an acclaimed writer, broadcasters and authority on ‘the beautiful game’. And he is painting a bleak picture for the immediate prospects for the sport.
In an interview with this month’s Baltic Triangle Podcast, Dr Taylor claims the value of football, which is worth more than £25bn annually in Europe alone, could plummet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Produced by Liverpool’s Baltic Broadcasting Company, the monthly podcast is presented by Mick Ord and Mark Reeson. This month it also features an interview with Alex Tunstall, who runs a new football skills centre – Fun1stFootball – based in Walton in north Liverpool.
In predicting a turbulent period for football, Dr Taylor was echoing the recently-departed chief executive of Liverpool FC, Peter Moore, who said: “We have seen what has happened to Bury and Macclesfield and my fear if we don’t find a way of getting fans back in is that is just the beginning. The collateral damage will be felt for years and that we will lose clubs that will never come back as a result of this.”
Dr Taylor said: “We are going to see a global shrinkage of the football economy. And this will happen at the top of the game… The fixed costs are so high with 70% of the money going into players’ contracts.”
With COVID-19 cases having risen again in the past few weeks, a pilot programme to allow a limited number of fans back into stadiums in October has been postponed. This is a setback for football clubs for whom matchday revenue is a big earner.
It is not just the money taken over the gate. Clubs also earn money from matchday sponsors, corporate hospitality and, of course, the TV rights. Accountancy firm Deloitte predicts Premier League league clubs could lose as much as £1bn due to the pandemic. Liverpool FC’s monthly wage bill, including players and all other staff, is £25m.
And in the last few days the German Bundesliga has seen its overseas TV rights deal fall by 20% to €200m. Clubs all over the world are finding themselves in the same boat.
“The value of TV rights is are shrinking quite significantly from the original deals because clubs cannot deliver a stadium full of fans,” explained Dr Taylor. “A big part of the value is the crazy fans making a lot of noise – the amazing atmosphere that generates. The TV rights buyers are entitled to say ‘that is not what we bought’.
Dr Taylor believes it is only a matter of time before this new reality feeds into the new deals the players will get: “Players will get less than they have done previously. When everything starts shrinking, where are the clubs going to get the money from?.”