Season-long hibernation seems inevitable

19 May 20, 12:17PM 0 Comments

Photo by Sky Sports

As the lockdown continues, the amount of questions needing answers increase. For those Championship and League 1 clubs currently worrying about their long-term futures, it appears as though they will have to come to terms with the fact that the two competitions are likely to be null and void.

There is almost a feeling of inevitability that that is what will happen. With both logistics and finances coming into serious question, both competitions will struggle if given the green light.

Those clubs outside Super League are, on the whole, part-time which means that testing players is a completely different ball-game. Full-time players can self-isolate together whilst for the part-timers, that simply isn’t possible as almost all have jobs in other industries too.

Finances too have a major role to play in upcoming decisions. Playing behind closed doors is not that much of an issue for Super League sides who could charge some kind of pay-per-view facility to make up for lost gate receipts.

This is a luxury that lower tier sides simply cannot afford as smaller clubs would be restricted in their ability to commercialise such a commodity. And, with gate receipts the main source of income for most lower league clubs, playing behind closed doors would be more financially disastrous than not playing at all.

Players and staff would be taken off furlough with pay appearance and win bonuses having to be paid, without the necessary gate receipts to fund them. That could spell financial ruin for some.

Sky are still sending their central distribution money to respective clubs around the leagues and, if Super League returns to the RFL in a bid to fulfil its broadcast agreement, that money would still go to Championship and League 1 clubs too. Essentially, that would provide some clubs with the ability to operate with controllable losses as costs will have significantly decreased.

Unfortunately, if clubs were required to play behind closed doors, that would all change with a massive increase in debt a likelihood, even though clubs could apply for a slice of the £16 million pie given by the government.

Though some are more keen than others to return to action – particularly those that are chasing promotion – the long-term effects of such a return could be catastrophic. There are, however, things to take into consideration before cutting the season altogether.

For example, how long can staff be furloughed for before financial responsibility becomes an even greater burden? And, just how could you explain to season ticket holders that they are going to miss the overwhelming majority of games that they have already paid for? Refunds would be a possibility which could raise a different kind of financial implication.

The debates about how to settle the season will rumble on until something concrete is decided. But, for the second and third tiers, scrapping the season in its entirety could engender greater stability than attempting to scrape through it.

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