The Premier League could hand its 20 clubs prize money early in order to ease the cash flow crisis that the global coronavirus pandemic that has inflicted, according to new reports. There have been no matches since March 9 due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected over 1.5million people worldwide with the death toll nearing 100,000.
And that has led to a clutch of financial repercussions for Premier League clubs, with four having put their non-playing staff on furlough, signing up to the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme for the taxpayer to cover 80 per cent of their wages.
In an open and honest statement, Burnley projected last week that they will lose around £50m due to the suspension of England’s top flight.
That’s despite having recorded pre-tax profits for three straight seasons, with a wage bill that is among the lowest in the division.
Other clubs could stand to lose far more from a lack of gate receipts, commercial income and broadcasting revenue.
And The Times say that an agreement has been reached between the 20 Premier League clubs to release some of the funds awarded for the positions in which teams finish in the league table early.
With the sums higher for those who finish towards the summit, league leaders Liverpool – two wins from the title before the season was suspended – stand to earn in excess of £20million, it is claimed.
Clubs towards the bottom end of the table, those more likely to suffer during this crisis, will only receive several million pounds however.
The money handed to clubs will also include some of that usually awarded as facility fees – essentially meaning the payments clubs are owed when they appear in a match which is broadcast live on TV by Sky Sports or BT Sport.
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The Times say the Premier League has already received all of its broadcast income from the domestic broadcasters and overseas rights holders, despite nine fixtures remaining of the campaign.
The league is at risk of facing massive refund demands of the £762m that has been paid for by broadcasters, with it having been projected by the Daily Mail that it would cost Liverpool around £55m – with their TV income dropping from £178m to £123m.
Premier League chiefs are keen to ensure clubs stay afloat after the drop in matchday income but are wary of prematurely offering out more cash in case the season cannot be concluded which would leave them owing the likes of Sky and BT huge sums.
Chief executive of the Premier League Richard Masters has warned it could lose at least £1bn if the pandemic is extended.
“We face a £1billion loss, at least, if we fail to complete season 2019-20, and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends into the future,” he said in a letter to MPs.
On the matter of clubs utilising the government’s scheme without players having taken a pay cut or deferral, Masters added: “The furlough scheme announced by Government is meant for the whole economy, including many enterprises which might be regarded as providing entertainment or otherwise dependent on elite talent.
“Not only is our industry facing losses now, but to be realistic, we must also base our plans on full recovery being some distance away.
“Ultimately, the very heavy losses that we face will have to be dealt with or else clubs or other enterprises who depend on football for income will go out of business.”
Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich have all consulted the scheme, while Liverpool planned to as well, before performing a dramatic u-turn two days later after facing a backlash from fans.
The Reds had posted a pre-tax profit of £42m in February as they increased their turnover to £533m, having also posted huge numbers 12 months previous.
Southampton meanwhile became the first club on Thursday to confirm their players had agreed a wage deferral.
In a club statement, the Saints said: “The board of directors, the first-team manager, his coaching staff and the first-team squad have agreed to defer part of their salaries for the months of April, May and June to help protect the future of the club, the staff that work within it and the community we serve.
“Furthermore, the club can confirm that it will not use the government’s Job Retention Scheme during April, May and June.
“Our owners, Mr. Gao and Katharina Liebherr, have put measures in place to ensure that all staff not deferring part of their salaries will continue to receive 100 per cent of their pay, paid in the normal way until 30th June.
“Any decision on the future beyond this date will be made in advance of this, but only when more information is known.”
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