In Depth

Coronavirus: sport industry faces wage cuts, bailouts and financial ruin

Football and rugby clubs among those fearing for their future

With the sports industry in lockdown across the world the ramifications of the coronavirus crisis are only now beginning to be discussed. 

As the Premier League contemplates finishing its season in May and June, players in England’s lower leagues are bracing themselves for wage cuts.

The Daily Mail claims that the £50m relief fund announced by the English Football League (EFL) board earlier this week “will only be enough to tide clubs over for the next four weeks”. And if football does not resume before the end of April, then more drastic measures will be required.

These are likely to entail all EFL clubs asking their players to take a wage cut in order to ensure their survival into next season. 

Failure to implement such action would endanger “as many as half a dozen clubs in the Championship”, says the Mail. 

Among those in jeopardy are Leeds United and Derby County, whose hefty wage bills are paid by their large gate receipts. 

Deprived of that income for at least two months, the two illustrious clubs could be in danger of financial collapse, as could Charlton and Blackburn Rovers, who have had their money problems even before the coronavirus crisis. 

English football suspended until 30 April - but the season is extended indefinitely

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Rugby to reduce wages

Also facing a cut in wages are rugby union’s top stars, according to the BBC, as the sport feels the pinch with the shutdown. 

England’s Premiership Rugby has been suspended until at least 20 April, but like their footballing counterparts, a further delay is expected. 

There is also the added complication for Britain’s domestic leagues of international tours this summer, meaning they will be hard-pressed to find room to finish the season. 

The BBC says that club losses “will far exceed £1m” and consequently some players will be obliged to take a pay cut of up to 25% in an attempt to stave off a financial crisis.

Earlier in the week Northampton Saints chief executive Mark Darbon described the shutdown as a “huge challenge” and revealed that the club would lose around £400,000 in revenue for every home match called off because of the pandemic.

These fears are replicated in Scottish and Welsh clubs, and while their unions have pledged financial support, the English Rugby Football Union has yet to offer any concrete assurance of assistance other than to say they are “investigating a range of options”. 

Crisis talks

Meanwhile, The Times reports that discussions are underway between the government and British sport’s main funding bodies amid concerns that the coronavirus crisis “will leave sports organisations facing financial ruin”. 

Among the sports fearing for their future are athletics, rugby union, rugby league, tennis and cricket. 

Representatives from their governing bodies, along with officials from Sport England and UK Sport - who provide government and lottery-based funding for the national sports bodies - are already in discussion with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about providing financial assistance if required.

Today’s back pages

Premier League goes into extra time and king Eric Cantona may return to Man Utd

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