The COVID-19 pandemic has created several difficulties that football clubs must deal with in order to continue to operate during this time.
The many complexities of a football club make it difficult enough to manage in normal circumstances.
Smaller or lower division clubs will be aiming to survive the pandemic while the bigger clubs will be looking for ways to continue to prosper.
In April, Football Federation Australia (FFA) CEO James Johnson was unable to guarantee the survival of all A-League clubs.
“Do I think that all the clubs will make it through? I think that’s too early to say at the moment,” he said.
While the A-League season did go ahead making it more likely that all clubs will survive, the pandemic and a reduced broadcasting deal present a significant financial problem for clubs.
Football League chairman Rick Parry made similar statements in June regarding League One and Two clubs who are unsure of playing without crowds due to the decreased revenue.
“The aim is to make sure all the clubs survive, and we will be working 24 hours a day to make sure they do,” he said.
“We can’t give guarantees. Who knows whether we have seen the end of this crisis or whether there is going to be a second spike. But our aim, our avowed aim, and we will be giving it our very best shot, is to make sure the EFL comes through this stronger than we are at the moment.”
With no end date to the pandemic in sight, there are several areas in which football clubs will have to change or adapt to going forward.
The football industry is not the only industry feeling the impacts of COVID-19. Current and potential sponsors for football clubs are likely to be facing financial hardship too.
Southampton are reportedly set to lose club sponsor LD Sports. The deal with LD Sports is worth £7.5million a year.
Managing Director of League Two team Oldham Athletic Natalie Atkinson told fcbusiness that the football club’s commercial income will now be completely different.
“We have to be more creative about what our matchday sponsorship looks like, our LED, our short and shirt and stadium sponsorship looks like because if we play behind closed doors they’re not going to get that fan exposure,” she said.
Although it is not all bad news for football clubs, last week Leeds United signed its largest ever commercial deal with sports betting company SBOTOP.
The main way that fans support their football team is by attendance at matches. With it being either not possible or only going ahead in limited numbers, clubs have to find other ways to engage with their supporters.
Manchester United has been providing fans with activity worksheets and video challenges via the club’s website.
TV and Broadcast Deals
COVID-19 has also created problems for football leagues. Due to lockdowns and games being unable to be played, revenue from broadcasting deals has been cut.
In America the MLS took the approach of playing a tournament titled ‘MLS is Back’ before its regular season restarts.
These extra games will be a way of making back some of that lost revenue money.
The MLS also took the opportunity of not having fans to instead install extra cameras and a big screen to display extra visuals and statistics to TV viewers.
“How we can look at really leaning into audio and all of the sounds that we wouldn’t get the benefit of hearing because of the crowd,” ESPN VP of production Amy Rosenfeld said.
“Our approach has been taking the negative of not having fans, which is such an intrinsic part of soccer, but then creating an authentic, immersive experience for the audience as if they were there and really giving them access to dialogue that we would never get access to.”
While COVID-19 has had many negative consequences, football can and does need to make the most of its opportunities to continue to remain strong after the pandemic.