The “unprecedented crisis” facing British and European football because of coronavirus could result in serious economic consequences with insolvencies and layoffs of players and staff if the sport does not coordinate its response, the head of the international players union has said.
Jonas Baer-Hoffman, who took over as the Fifpro general secretary in January, said he will be stressing the impending financial cost of the crisis during Uefa’s conference with all Europe’s football associations, leagues and top clubs on Tuesday.
Some clubs in the Football League have already begun to discuss redundancies and reducing employees’ hours after the postponement last week of matches, provisionally until 3 April.
It is widely expected Uefa will offer to postpone June’s European Championship, the first in the new format of hosting in 12 major cities from St Petersburg to Dublin that has become logistically the worst possible given the pandemic that has put much of the continent in lockdown.
Moving the Euros provisionally to next year will free a month to try to finish club competitions including the Champions and Europa leagues but will cause another headache, given the women’s European Championship is scheduled for 7 July to 1 August in England next year.
The Uefa director of competitions, Giorgio Marchetti, has been leading the modelling of different ideas for the remaining Champions and Europa league fixtures as football looks for ways to complete the season despite the crisis.
One possibility being discussed is if the remaining round of 16 games – four in the Champions League and all eight second-leg ties in the Europa League that have been indefinitely postponed – can somehow be played, the quarter‑finals could be stripped down to a single tie.
The four semi-finalists could then meet in the city designated for the final, Istanbul for the Champions League, Gdansk for the Europa League, with the semi-finals and final played over a long weekend.
That, and other models being worked up by national leagues to get their own competitions finished, is dependent on government health advice and travel policies that have become increasingly firm and effectively led to professional football leagues being suspended across Europe.
Baer-Hoffman said Fifpro is “already seeing contracts terminated” of players at clubs where the finances are fragile and income from tickets and hosting matches is being lost.
“In a matter of weeks we could have insolvencies and massive layoffs, not only of players but among hundreds of thousands of people who work in football and whose jobs are now on the line,” he said.
“Our membership includes many players who are not hugely well-paid, we all know how tightly many clubs’ budgets are managed, so the social and economic consequences could be profound if we don’t manage this crisis properly.”
As European countries contemplate a near-shutdown of their wider economies with dire results for millions of people’s livelihoods, Baer‑Hoffman pointed out that football is one sector with the wealth to look after itself.
“Football must look at how it can sustain clubs, to make use of its liquidity to maintain its pyramid. After the recent period where we’ve had arguments about the football calendar after 2024, this presents a need to have a responsible dialogue and work together. We will be making these points with Uefa and hoping these conversations can happen very soon.”
The Uefa president, Aleksander Ceferin, will host the video conference with all 55 of Europe’s football associations, the European Club Association and European Leagues.
One senior figure who will be involved in the video conference said that beyond the expected postponement of the Euros, he did not expect any firm decisions to be taken, about the Champions League, Europa League, or any other competition.
It remains so uncertain when football may be able to resume in any kind of normal way, he said, that different potential scenarios are more likely to be discussed, and commitments given to work further on them, as the virus, and consequent restrictions, take their course.
The government in Switzerland, where Uefa, Fifa and approximately 60 other sports governing bodies are based, declared a state of emergency on Monday until 19 April, shutting all shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment and leisure facilities and tightening travel restrictions on its borders.