By Tony Attwood
There appear to be four exits out of the current mess, with each writer, correspondent, expert, blogger, broadcaster, man on the street or even the man on the Clapham omnibus (as used to be said in the old days) taking up one of them. Or in terms of newspaper writers, at least two of them, depending which day of the week it is.
And since there has been little pulling of them all together, here they are, so that you can take your pick of the position you wish to occupy. Unless of course you’ve already got one and you (like all those journalists and TV pundits) know you are right.
1: The Premier League clubs shut down, do some transfer dealings when the window opens, and then start playing again when it is all over, doing exactly the same as before – buying and selling players and just carrying on.
There will be some sort of resolution to the incomplete season, either with it being abandoned uncompleted or with remaining matches played next season. There will be arrangements made for next season to try and take into account who would have been promoted, but not who would have been relegated (because such clubs will sue).
The fixes will satisfy no one – as with the fact that if the current league position is held as the final league position in the Premier League, Arsenal will suffer through having played one game fewer than others and had they won that game, would possibly have been in a Europa position.
2: Someone makes a power grab. The most favoured “someone” is Uefa who could say, this moment is the moment to start a European Super League into which the top clubs are invited. As a result, the existing leagues become second rate affairs as there will be no promotion into or relegation out of the national leagues into the super league.
This super league will simply be announced and clubs that decide not to participate and those not invited will be left out in the cold of their existing national competitions.
From this point downwards there will be a huge shakeout, as money that previously trickled down to the non-European competing clubs dries up. Consider, for example, a club like Wolverhampton Wanderers. It has spent a lot of money getting into the Premier League – they lost £55m in their promotion season and made a £22m profit in their first season back in the league.
What’s more we know that Wolverhampton have borrowed against future TV revenue – which of course they might now not get.
But that borrowing and past profit is being re-invested as the club attempts to push forward again and reach the European positions. Yet if the European competitions become a closed shop without them inside, then the club will be playing in a wasteland outside of the Big League. This wasteland might have a TV deal but it will be tiny compared to what can be achieved from European money.
3: Clubs go into liquidation on a massive basis
This happens because they fail to pay instalments on their transfer debts owing to the fact that they have had far too little income to cover their debts, and the banks are not able to loan any more. From this point, the whole structure of football could be rebuilt in a similar form to now, or something quite different could be created. But that collapse and rebuild could take a few years.
The point is that the whole of football is built on gambling. Gambling in the sense that if the club invests another huge load of money (which is then paid out in instalments over a number of years) the players it buys will deliver a place in the Champions League and possibly some trophies.
4: The transfer market collapses and some clubs go to the wall.
The clubs that survive will continue playing but won’t have the income that they used to have. Some will adjust some not. Clubs with a strong youth set-up will stand a good chance of keeping going because they will have new players coming through without massive expenditure.
It looks like one of those four, and my guess is option 1, the one that all the newspapers and most blogs seem to think is certain, is actually the least likely.
But we shall see.
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