Football will not be the same – the coronavirus forever changed the “game of millions”. The football world was almost the first to feel the changes associated with the COVID-19 coming from China. They will affect not only the next transfer window or the next season. Coronavirus has affected all subsequent generations. Football will change completely, no matter how temporary this crisis may seem. A pandemic will change the market and undermine the financial stability of many clubs.
No structure will ever feel completely safe. In this, the football world will be similar to the economy of Western countries, which will take decades to fully recover.
From Newcastle to Barcelona, from Bordeaux to Baku – the principles of the game will change forever. And this time there is no alternative. It makes no sense to blame football for the difficulties that have overshadowed the sports world in recent weeks. It also makes no sense to wonder why the clubs did not have a strategy to counter the crisis that devastated entire industries.
With the same success, one can criticize successful restaurateurs for not having visitors in their establishments. The clubs raced on all sails, and then, in an instant, stopped. The temple of football is empty. Why are we surprised at the current situation if there are no matches and fans? Any airline will go bankrupt if it has no passengers. Broadcasts are running out, and sponsors are leaving, trying to save their money.
Now we can argue that the clubs lived beyond their means. However, no one has a business plan that would successfully protect him from collapse. With the same success, you can go back to 1945 and ask the owner of a cafe in Hiroshima about his financial strategy. He would hardly talk about an atomic bomb that can destroy everything.
Coronavirus is compared to war. But this is not at all like a war. Many political and economic theorists will argue that capitalism needs conflict, that it seeks benefits in the struggle between countries. Everything is different here. Everyone suffers, and capitalism cannot change anything. We say “military-industrial complex.” There is no such thing as “coronavirus-industrial” in the dictionary.
Just like no other person will feel comfortable in the crowd, no club will feel financially confident. Because of this, the world will enter an era of conservatism.
The transfer market will look very different. Last summer, no one would have raised an eyebrow if Jadon Sancho were bought for a conditional 150 million pounds. But who can take such a risk in the post-coronavirus world?
Barcelona, one of the richest clubs in the world, is forced to argue with its players over a 70 percent wage cut. And imagine what it is now for small and medium-sized clubs?
In Germany, they reacted to this situation almost instantly. Four clubs – Bayern, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen – donated 20 million pounds to help the teams of the third and fourth division. But this crisis affects not only weak clubs. In a difficult situation are teams from the highest echelon.
Everything changes. No one should judge the owners of teams that previously selflessly supported their “brainchild”, but now face ruin. This is a tragedy that could hardly have been imagined 12 months ago. Previously, clubs were scattered about money, but now they are afraid to spend it.
Why? But what if, after nine months, the coronavirus returns and causes damage again, and your club has spent its budget on useless transfers? Then the club expects reckoning. Coronavirus doesn’t care how much the functionaries spent on new players or what salaries the players have. Everyone will suffer.
Football is changing. In a renewed world, patience will be a virtue. Many clubs will give a chance to young players whose financial requirements are easy to fulfill. Multimillion-dollar transfers will be less.
The English Premier League can become a kind of “testing ground”, especially for foreigners. For example, Fred was a completely useless player in his first year at Manchester United. But in the second season, he significantly improved his game.
It should be understood that not all players are able to repeat the success of Bruno Fernandes or Luis Suarez, who “fit” into the Premier League system in the very first matches.
Jose Mourinho was very critical of the fact that Tottenham bought Tanguy Ndombele in the summer of 2019. The club spent 58 million pounds on this player, but he did not have a noticeable impact. It is unlikely that a club that spends such money will feel comfortable in the current environment.
By the time the crisis is over, Britain is unlikely to be left untouched by business. Broadcasting, advertising, sponsorship companies will work with a cut budget.
This we are not talking about the part of the fans, which will become less likely to watch football and refuse to visit the stadium because of the fear of getting infected. And the money from the sale of tickets is extremely important for anyone.
Eurocups will not resume soon
Let me return to emphasizing what is even more important now: that all of them, all of you, will remain healthy and strong. However, it goes without saying, there are two things that seem perfectly clear.
Firstly, it is an opinion, not an examination, which seems very optimistic: European football will resume – whether it be the Europa League or the Champions League – not earlier than in many months.
I hope I’m wrong, but recently, traveling around Europe, it has become clear to me that there is a detrimental effect on every country, and how every nation reacts. Therefore, it seems unjustified to think that each league will be ready to resume matches at the same time.
Right now it is important that as many people as possible are informed, responsible, active, generous and positive – but this last word, it seems to me, does not include blind optimism.
I think that those of us who either rely on football for life, for pleasure, for passion, for “love”, for distraction, or because it is genuine daily demand, should prepare for the fact that we are far from certain that most tournaments can be completed.
And even when the games finally begin, and we again feel a “normal” everyday life, what then?
Player consciousness may change
Over the past few decades, the global impact of football has continued to grow. Before this extremely unpleasant and unexpected break, you could watch football for about 364 days a year every year and, obviously, around the clock, no matter where you are in the world.
For some players, this is a gold mine. They earn a good living, they receive a healthy degree of fame and rewards – and they have downtime. Nevertheless, for a huge football layer, which is considered to be “elite”, we squeeze their capabilities that allow them to be realized.
So, Lionel Messi played almost every six days over the past 10 and a half years – a total of 649 matches for the club and the country. Add to this the workouts, travels, physical exercises, sponsorship requirements, sleep, responsibilities in communicating with the media, and it is amazing that a person has time to think.
The Argentinean is not the norm in football, but if you began to question the vast majority of the absolute best football players in the world, they would recognize that, although technical abilities and athleticism were originally their key talents, the talent to manage fatigue, pain and ongoing stress or pressure should now match these initial skills.
So, what happens when these guys have weeks, or maybe months of free time? Time spent with loved ones. Time spent thinking.
Time for wit and training alone with yourself. Time to learn how much they have earned, and perhaps just overestimate the relationship between how vital the next transfer or new contract is compared to the pleasure of your profession.
The fate of player contracts is uncertain
I am convinced that whenever we return to full-fledged matches with fans in the stands, much will change, even if only temporarily, when it comes to the players.
On the one hand, not all fans who previously went to the stadiums and proudly wore the colors of their club will be there. It’s just the sad fact that this terrible virus will affect us all.
As for the players, I wonder to what extent deprivation of the right to use their skills, deprivation of their livelihood affects them in the long run. Some will become very gloomy very quickly.
Stories from those football players who end their careers without any plans, organization, tell us this. But what about those players whose contracts expire this year (more precisely, in June), and what they or their clubs can do about it if force majeure circumstances are still in force and football has not resumed, and no one has understood when will this happen? Will the clubs be reluctant to sell or release the artists they planned to leave because budgets have suffered so much? Will there automatically be the same number of people who want to buy their clubs?
Is it also possible that the long rest period of those players who do not enter the field because of injuries or illnesses will inspire them that they love this game, or will encourage some to conclude that in fact they can do without it, and they better play golf and live on their savings?
Players can challenge the match calendar
Wayne Rooney recently expressed the idea that he felt like a commodity, felt that football in England took the position that “the show should continue at all costs, regardless of the consequences” – it also touched on the living.
It is interesting whether some of our elite footballers will behave louder, more militantly, will they be ready to fight for a better, fairer, more balanced calendar, when everything returns, if not to the “normal” state of things, then to the new “norm”?
I wish you all safety and health, I sincerely wish that beautiful, crazy, disappointing, inspiring, opera, divine football will return as soon as possible, achievable and reasonable.
But right now, I think we should not expect that these preliminary new dates will continue, or that everything will become fully recognizable when the stadiums begin to fill up, the judges will blow the whistle at the start of the match, and the fans will finally be able to reiterate their allegiance to their to the heroes.