By Walter Broeckx
With the whole World suffering under the corona crisis, football is not really the main focus of most people. But the impact on football is big. And this is also the case in Belgium football. As most of the media in the UK is still sticking their heads in the sand and not looking much further than ‘club X will buy player Z’ but the impact will be very big in fact.
In Germany they think that as long as matches could take place behind closed doors and could be broadcast the financial impact will be bearable for most clubs. TV income is of course one of the biggest incomes for the clubs.
Uli Hoeness from Bayern Munich said that he thinks that there will be no more transfers of around 100M in the next years as most clubs will be hit with the financial impact of the corona crisis.
If I look at the Belgian league I first must explain the way it is organised. The league has 16 clubs in the 1A division and 8 clubs in the 1B division. These are the only full time professional leagues in Belgium.
After the regular competition the top 6 clubs enter in a playoff tournament where the play each other twice to decide the champion.
At the moment football was stopped we just had to play the final day of the regular season. Still a few things had to be decided with three teams still being able to make it to the playoff and with two teams fighting to avoid relegation to 1B. And the cup final also had to be played.
As things stand it looks that there will be no playoffs. And in the best case one could play the cup final in an empty stadium.
But the financial impact on the clubs will be immense. A few clubs have taken actions already.
In Belgium professional football players have a very favourable tax regime. They have to pay a fraction of what other people have to pay for the social security and they also have to pay less taxes than us mortals. A system that feels very wrong.
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Also in Belgium we have a system of “technical unemployment’. That is a system where companies who can’t work properly for some reason (a crisis like this is a valid reason) they don’t have to throw their workmen out but they can ask the government to temporally put them in that system. So the tax payers pay some 70% of the income of the people who have to go in that system.
And some football clubs have taken the step to register their players in that system. Meaning that the players will only have an income of around 1500 euro per month. Needless to say that that is a huge income gap with what they usually earn.
The clubs say that they cannot pay the wages anymore as their income has hit the ground. One club is on the brink of collapsing already as they had some financial trouble already before the crisis hit us.
But I think that there might be a few clubs that will have serious trouble to survive the crisis.
One such club has asked their players to drop one month of their wages in order to keep afloat. That club is Anderlecht, the record champion from Belgium who are having serious troubles also.
So as things stand it looks that the league will not be finished with the playoffs. The best case would be that they play the final day behind closed doors and then give the title to FC Bruges who are miles in front of the rest. And then the cup final and wrap the season up and hope for a normal season that could start from August.
Lots of uncertainty in Belgium therefore, and I fear for the future of a few clubs who might have trouble of overcoming this crisis.
My personal view is that we have seen the last football as it was over the last 20 – 25 years. I think players will have to accept big wage cuts and maybe we could go back to a more normal way of clubs competing with each other.
I think that the only way that football could survive this is by showing solidarity between the clubs and by enforcing stricter rules about financing the clubs. A system where, let us say, clubs should put money aside to survive a period of six months without income could be a way to go. A kind of deposit with a bank where clubs should at the start of each season have half of their budget locked for any event.
Doing that would also make sure that transfer prices and wages will have to go down to make the clubs being able to make that deposit.
Maybe if the dust settles down after the crisis we might see that in society in general we might get a bit more sanity in our behaviour and let us hope that sanity comes back to football.
Who would have thought that this would come from a small virus… A virus probably being more effective in bringing sense back to football than whole Fifa and Uefa and all the FA’s of the world together….
Stay safe and stay healthy. We try to do this in Belgium from our semi-quarantine situation. Keep your distance and stay inside if you don’t need to go outside.