A few months back, the coronavirus seemed more like a faraway disease in China, but right now, it has grown from an epidemic to a pandemic, and it’s currently affecting most if not all countries of the world.
The fear of the spread of the easily transmitted virus has led many governments all over the world to shut down most businesses and order a stay at home for everyone. This extends to even our beloved sport, football.
It is worthy to note that although football is sports and all, it is still a business run by boards of directors to make profits and like many other businesses, football has also been affected by the COVID-19. This article is going to be checking certain areas of football currently affected.
One of the areas currently affected is that of contracts. A contract is an agreement between two or more parties which creates reciprocal legal obligations to do or not to do a thing. In football, clubs offer deals to players and the players playing football is one of the commitments of players in return for money. What then happens when players can no longer perform their obligations?
The first issue under contracts of players is the issue of deals that are to end by June 2020. These contracts were meant to run at the end of the football season, but with the football season suspended, what will happen?
The dilemma here is that clubs are going to be at a disadvantage because if it continues like this without close attention to it, these players will leave for free without completing their six months contractual obligation.
A media outlet in Spain claims that FC Barcelona loses a certain amount in millions daily since the outbreak of the virus. And with an annual wage bill of more than 600million and little to no money coming in, one would wonder how they can keep paying the salaries of players without going bankrupt.
The Mirror, a media outlet in the UK claims that the Catalan club has debts of £55m and that President Josep Maria Bartomeu said the postponement of the Champions League return leg with Napoli cost them as much as £5.5m.
Some economists have suggested a reduction in players’ salaries. There have, however, been problems with this as FC Barcelona’s players have been reported to have rejected the club’s first pay-cut proposal.
From my perspective, there are two ways in which the contractual issue can be resolved
There could be a discharge by frustration of the contract between the club and the players. This is because something unexpected that the parties to the deal could not by a means foresee has occurred thereby not allowing them to perform their contractual obligations.
However, this is going to cause more harm than good because it is going to make players free agents who can sign for any other club making clubs to lose their most prized possessions- their players.
The best solution so far is alteration. Alteration refers to a change in one or more of the terms of a contract with the consent of all the contracting parties.
It is worthy to note that this results in a new contract and most times, there is always a remission which means acceptance of a lesser sum than what was contracted for. Yes, This is just another word for reduction of salaries.
The question, however, is what manner of form it will take. I strongly believe that a percentage decrease will do nothing to help clubs and it would not really favour players with very low wages.
Likewise, if salaries are not the same, won’t there be a dressing room crisis because all players are equal in this period as none of them is generating money or winning anything for the club.
In this light, I’d suggest that each player earns the same salary during this period and FIFA helps out in stating the exact salary for first-team players, as well as junior team players. (obviously, they can’t earn the same thing). In summary, this means that there will be an alteration of players’ contract for the period of the pandemic with the current contracts being on hold until the end of the epidemic.
This would also solve the problem of those left with six months on their contracts. Since they are on a modified contract for the period of the pandemic, they can’t be free agents by June 2020.
Another area currently affected is that of transfers. A player’s value in the transfer market could reduce due to some circumstances such as age, declining form, reduced playing time and injuries sustained.
In this case, players have already spent two weeks without playing football, and no one knows how long they’d be out for. This means that the ever-rising transfer market would have to take a hit. Players such as Mbappe, Neymar, Kane should become easier to sign now.
When the value reduces, buying clubs would have more bargaining power during the signing of contracts in terms of salaries and other clauses received by players.
However, I project that there might not be many signings because most clubs would need to recover from the debt incurred during the pandemic.
We could also see a change in the transfer window. The change would be determined by whether the current season is cancelled or postponed. If it is cancelled, there might be no change, but it would most likely not be cancelled, which would mean the summer transfer window will no longer be between June-September.
Also, the football calendar is one of the areas affected by COVID-19. Is the football calendar going to change? It will if the season is not cancelled. One begins to wonder what will happen to the competitions like the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and international competitions.
UEFA have been having meetings with concerned clubs to see how the season can be ended before June 30, but reports claim the club physicians have told clubs that they risk players suffering from severe muscular problems.
But if it can’t be completed does it mean they’d cancel the current season? And if they do, how would they determine the winner of the various competitions and leagues? For instance, RFEF is saying that it would be unfair to give the Spanish La Liga to Barcelona even though they’re first on the table. What does this mean for the future of football?
Closely related to the football calendar is awards. Awards determine the best players so far, but how do you do that if the season is not completed. What would be the criteria for awards this year? Would there be even awards this year seeing that everyone would be trying to recoup on the losses made during this period
Furthermore, broadcasting companies would suffer a significant hit during this period and don’t be surprised when some of your favourite sports channels close shop because they could not recoup their losses. For instance, ITV has been able to save £40million to £50million due to the postponement of Euro 2020 but has, in turn, had its shares fall by 12.6%.
According to Quartz, the rights to broadcast games in the Premier League are shared by Sky and BT, who have paid the Premier League and its clubs $5.8 billion for three-year packages. The question, however, is if broadcasting rights for matches will be paid back to these companies if games paid for are not played. I mean, there’s no reason to pay for a service that was not rendered.
Lastly, let’s look at sponsorships and personal endorsements. A lot of clubs have deals with various companies where the companies provide something (could be jerseys, money, kits, etc.) in exchange for publicity on the part of the clubs.
However, with this pandemic on the rise, one has to wonder what will happen to those deals because as stated earlier, it would do hardship on the other party involved. Players also have personal endorsements with brands which could run seasonally/yearly.
Currently, two-thirds of the games have been completed, but if the season is cancelled, it will pose a fundamental question as to when the contract is meant to end. Two ways could resolve this; the contract is discharged as a result of frustration which will lead to problems in signing new deals, or the contract is put on hold for the period of the pandemic. However, irrespective of the actions taken, it will still result in ‘When will the contract end?”
All these and many more issues in the footballing world will also depend on certain things like the result of the meetings between FIFA, and respective clubs and countries. How long the virus will be active, and even if the season will be completed.
However, one thing is to be noted. In all these things and measures, it is evident that one party will have to be bear the brunt. That party is going to be linked to another party (for instance, most owners of clubs have personal businesses they run and use the profit to run their various clubs.
Now it will get to a point they’d have to choose between all their businesses) be linked to another one. In times like this where there have been silent talks about another great depression, one can only wonder if the world’s inter-related economy can survive this impending doom.