News   |    July 21st, 2021

The Challenge Ahead

As we approach the first phase of the lifting of the restrictions imposed upon us all by the coronavirus pandemic, the focus will now turn to how the 91-team professional football structure can survive.

Now that Germany is allowing the Budesliga to re-open for business it is looking increasingly likely that Premier League football will return in empty stadiums, but the EFL situation is not so certain. There continues to be rumblings that Premier League players are unhappy to return at a time when Government figures show that hundreds of people in the UK are continuing to die each day. Players need to be persuaded that wherever games are played their health and safety is guaranteed. The reality for clubs and owners in the lower divisions is that without gate income it will cost them significant sums to stage matches. This is income they cannot afford so an increasing number now favour this season being closed.

Gordon Taylor, Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, has indicated players may have to accept permanent wage reductions because of the current health crisis. Of greater concern to smaller clubs is that he has made it very clear the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) will not be providing emergency funding to clubs. This has been a life saver for clubs in the past and I think the PFA have done this to ensure EFL clubs do not make decisions thinking they will be bailed out by others going forward.

At some EFL clubs, players have agreed to defer their wages but with no gate income it is a worrying time for EFL players as to when they will be paid. The media portrays all footballers as flush with money but the reality for many players is far different at the lower levels and like the rest of us players have mortgages and bills to pay, mouths to feed and losing their income will hit many hard. Of course, clubs being in trouble at the lower levels is nothing new as dozens have faced administration in recent years and survived.

This crisis will lead to many more players being released in June when their contracts come to an end and getting new clubs will not be easy for many. I believe clubs will make greater use of their academy players going forward to cut costs and ensure survival. But we need to ensure young players are not overplayed at a time when they are still developing physically and learning their trade. There will be calls for player wages to be capped but each club is a separate business with differing funding, and it is not something we at Integral Sports Management would support.

More than ever the players will need to rely on their agents to find them clubs and to negotiate the best deal they can. Thankfully, we are ready and equipped to face that challenge.

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