Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

The end of football’s gravy train?

By Robson Sharuko

The collapse of a French TV football deal, which could affect the capacity of clubs like Lyon to pay Tino Kadewere his dues, has sparked fears across Europe’s Big Five leagues the game’s gravy train might be coming to an end.

Tino Kadewere
Tino Kadewere

Global consultancy firm, KPMG, have also predicted the Big Five leagues in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy face a staggering US$4,35 billion from lost match day, broadcasting and sponsorship revenues, should the remaining games not be completed.

With many of the flagship clubs like Barcelona, whose players have already taken a 70 percent pay cut, and Juventus — whose stars have agreed to defer their salaries for the next four months — already structuring painful rescue packages, the situation is increasingly becoming gloomy.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, the Juventus star, has already been reported to be channelling a further £9 million of his money to helping efforts to tame the coronavirus outbreak.

This grim scenario could affect the likes of Zimbabwe international midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, the country’s highest paid footballer, who is reported to be earning in the region between £40 000 and £50 000 a week, at English Premiership side, Aston Villa.

The Birmingham side have, so far, indicated they will not be slashing the packages of their players, which should be a relief to Nakamba and his teammates, but pressure is growing and there are indications such a stance would not last for a long time as the crisis continues to bite.

There is growing public dissatisfaction in Britain that some people like footballers could be earning a staggering £300 000 a week while the whole country continues to suffer the pain, including job losses and dwindling income, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday, the British media reported that a staggering 92 per cent of the British public felt the English Premiership stars should take pay cuts, during the coronavirus crisis, in a poll conducted by YouGov SportTwo thousand, one hundred and fifty four British adults took part in the survey on Tuesday.

Two-thirds of those interviewed felt the professional footballers should not only reduce their pay but such a salary cut should not be less than half of what the players were taking home in salaries.

Nine percent of those interviewed even felt that the professional footballers working in Britain should defer receiving their mega salaries, after agreeing to a 100 percent pay cut, for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

There are also huge concerns that the English Championship sides, where Zimbabwe internationals — Macauley Bonne (Charlton Athletic), Andy Rinomhota (Reading) and Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest — pay their trade, could be badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on European football, the ultimate destination for many African footballers, could be disastrous, with experts concerned some of the leagues and clubs could be blown away by the crisis, changing the face of the game completely.

This week, seven-time Slovak champions, MSK Zilina, declared bankruptcy, in what financial experts believe is just the beginning of a story that will play itself out at a number of clubs around the world, in the coming weeks.

The federation that runs two-time world champions, Uruguay, a country that has produced some of the game’s biggest stars — Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Enzo Francescoli, Diego Forlan, Alcides Ghigghia, Jose Leandro Andrade, Obdulio Varela, Fernando Morena and Luis Suarez — also laid off 400 staff members because all football activities have been suspended.

This has led FIFA to draw up plans for an emergency relief fund, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to try and bail out the stricken multi-billion dollar football industry.

“FIFA is in a strong financial situation, and it’s our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need,” FIFA said in a statement Tuesday.

“Therefore, we confirm FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football.”

Their annual report, which was made public last year, showed FIFA had cash reserves of about US$2.74 billion.

English football officials are expected to meet again today, to discuss the impact of coronavirus on their football, which is a follow-up to the indaba which representatives of the Premiership, the Football League and the League Managers Association held with the union representing the players on Wednesday.

Three Premiership clubs — Norwich, Newcastle and Tottenham — have all already placed staff on leave of absence, which means they are not going to be paid even though they will remain on the payroll, as part of measures to ease the pressures which were being exerted by the financial challenges.

But, the revelations that French broadcaster Canal Plus told Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs that they would not be able to meet the £100m outlay to the teams, due as the next instalment, because of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, have really brought the scale of the crisis on the doorsteps of every football club.

“Our Pay-TV activities are strongly impacted by the closure of large part of our sales channels and by the weakening of the attractiveness of our sports offers.’’ Canal Plus, chief executive Maxime Saada, said in a letter to the French clubs.

“Our advertising revenues are in free fall (and) our international television and Studiocanal activities are also severely affected.”

This will put into question the capacity of such clubs like Lyon to meet the financial commitments they agreed with their players, including Kadewere who arrives in the next few months, because such agreements were factored with the huge TV incomes being taken into consideration.

But, even more devastating, is the impact that the collapse of Canal Plus could have on the English Premiership whose clubs benefit from foreign television deals which bring in about £4.35 billion into their coffers.

Canal Plus hold the English Premiership television deal in France.

Reports have shown that the English Premiership clubs could be forced to pay back £750m in TV rights money should their season not be completed and, because the teams want to hold on to that cash, it explains why many are desperate to ensure the campaign is concluded, one way or the other.

The Guardian newspaper even predicts that an English League One star might now get as low as £2 500 a week while a League Two player could get about £750 on new contracts. The Herald