Arse­nal

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Covid Crisis -

It is ex­actly 20 years since Arse­nal took the mo­men­tous de­ci­sion to buy an in­dus­trial and waste dis­posal es­tate in Ash­bur­ton Grove. Arsene Wenger and David Dein had al­most cer­tainly never heard of Ro­man Abramovich, Sheikh Man­sour or Stan Kroenke at that mo­ment but, for all the sub­se­quent fi­nan­cial trans­for­ma­tion of English foot­ball by bil­lion­aire own­ers, one con­se­quence of that de­ci­sion has re­mained un­changed.

Arse­nal’s busi­ness model and en­tire plan to be­come one of Europe’s “su­per clubs” rests more heav­ily on its sta­dium and matchLeagu­e day rev­enues than just about any other. It has pro­vided a solid foun­da­tion for one of the high­est wage bills in Bri­tish foot­ball. In the long term, it will also pro­tect Arse­nal against a drop in wider in­come from the Premier League’s broad­cast deal. Yet it is also why Arse­nal, among English foot­ball’s elite, will be most af­fected by the po­ten­tial ab­sence of match-day fans un­til the end of the sea­son.

Arse­nal are fore­cast to lose £122.7mil­lion for the pe­riod be­tween the start of lock­down in March and next May. That is more than £40mil­lion more than Chelsea and al­most £50mil­lion more than Manch­ester City. That may well have in­flu­enced staff re­dun­dan­cies ear­lier this year.

More than 10 English Foot­ball League and Na­tional League clubs could go bust af­ter the re­turn of fans in those di­vi­sions was scrapped, a lead­ing foot­ball fi­nance ex­pert has warned.

Kieran Maguire, a lec­turer in the sub­ject at the Univer­sity of Liver­pool, made the grim fore­cast af­ter pub­lish­ing data show­ing ev­ery club in the Cham­pi­onship and all but two in the Premier League would have made oper­at­ing losses in the sea­son be­fore last had they been de­prived of match-day in­come.

Data also showed all but seven sides in League One, five in League Two and three in the Na­tional League – many of which do not file de­tailed ac­counts – lost money in the same sea­son.

Charl­ton, Wi­gan, Old­ham and Southend have all pre­vi­ously been iden­ti­fied as be­ing at risk of go­ing to the wall, even be­fore the coro­n­avirus cri­sis struck, while Gilling­ham chair­man Paul Scally yes­ter­day warned his own club could do so by Christ­mas if sup­port­ers re­mained locked out of grounds.

Maguire said: “There is a dan­ger of a trickle be­com­ing far more than a trickle. Po­ten­tially, we could be hit­ting dou­ble fig­ures. If you take a look at the worst years pre-fi­nan­cial fair play, we were see­ing around 2003, 2004, seven, eight, nine clubs go­ing into ad­min­is­tra­tion, partly on the back of ITV Dig­i­tal’s col­lapse.

“What we are fac­ing at present is a far greater, far more uni­ver­sal hit to the pro­fes­sional sport sec­tor. How can clubs in the Na­tional League sur­vive if they can’t play matches in front of a pay­ing au­di­ence when 60 per cent or more of their money comes through the turn­stiles?”

Maguire warned that the bit­ter bat­tle for the own­er­ship of Charl­ton put them at par­tic­u­lar risk.

“Charl­ton’s very wor­ry­ing be­cause there’s presently an in­junc­tion against the per­son that wants to buy the club and some­body else who wants to buy the club who has been re­jected by the EFL,” he said.

But he said no club were be­yond res­cue pro­vided they had, or found, an owner “will­ing and able to cover the losses” caused by the pan­demic.

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