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September 2020
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Corona crisis in football: the situation in Belgium

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.

8 comments to Corona crisis in football: the situation in Belgium

  • stay safe Walter. don’t hope for too much sanity. as with common sense, there’s not a lot going around.

  • omgarsenal

    You bring up a very salient point about Clubs, even monied ones, not being able and also unwilling to pay the exorbitant and inflated transfer fees demanded by agents and the selling clubs. My take on this is that the really rich, sponsored clubs with deep pockets will take advantage of the buyer’s market and sweep up a fistful of top players each, loaning them out or keeping them on ¨ice¨ as the expression goes. These players will just be happy with a steady, flagrantly excessive wage and keep their mouths shut, otherwise they could find themselves sold on to a lesser club paying lower wages. The situation in Belgium is reflected throughout Europe but as you rightly say, England has their heads firmly up their posteriors, FIFA,EUFA and many sweet FAs are also in denial. When the bill has to be paid, they’ll scream blood murder, act surprised and beg the governments,clubs, supporters, taxpayers, non-sporting industries, sponsors etc. to bail them out as ¨Football is too big to fail¨, just like the banks.
    Hope the misses is well and symptom-free……what is semi-isolation?

  • WalterBroeckx

    omg, we can come out to go to work if you work in a job that is considered as necessary. As mine is (I don’t see it that way but hey…).
    You can go out for shopping for food (other shops are closed). And you can go out for a walk with the persons living under the same roof or for a ride on a bike. But it has to be near to where you live.
    But for the rest you have to stay in your own house or garden. Stay at home is the most used sentence these days in Belgium or in Dutch: “Blijf in uw kot”

  • WalterBroeckx

    Omg I forgot to mention that we also cannot see our children or visit them.

  • Gord

    OT: COVID-19

    For people who want to see the current virus problems as a map, I think the best overall tool is the Johns Hopkins near real-time map supported by arcgis.com (it is called a “dashboard”). Google lists many maps (dashboards) of a similar nature also at arcgis.com.

    There are lots of news outlets (aka drain pipes) which purport to have maps of the outbreak, which are nominally useless. Canada seems to be leading the way in the production of these useless “maps”. Colouring individual Canadian provinces or territories for how many cases they have, or drawing a circle with a radius that is a function of cases and placing that circle on an outline of a province or territory is NOT a useful map.

    I provided a methodology to CBC BC, in case they wanted to try and produce a useful map. They don’t know me from Adam, so little chance they will even read what I sent, let alone study and implement it.

  • Gord

    OT: COVID-19

    While it doesn’t have maps, FT seems to have a good page on this topic as well. Of course, they have to have their cookies.

    https://www.ft.com/coronavirus-latest

  • Gord

    Brickfields (possibly others)

    The director of a hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti (Dr. Jerry Bitar) has been kidnapped. The hospital is refusing new patients until he is returned. Most of the news on this, is in languages other than English.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice to see you guys are well and in good spirits.
    Here in Malaysia although we are in lockdown mode , we are allowed to go out for certain hours of the day , to get food and the necessary items.
    But only one person in any vehicle , unless going to a clinic or hospital , or when the other person is invalid , disabled or it is an emergency.
    As I was at risk , I closed my clinic since last Tuesday. Was at home for 4 days straight , before going out yesterday ( Sat).
    Have not been on here until today , as I normally read on my work computer . Very rarely use my phone to read articles.
    Stay home guys , and stay safe.