Football executive warns of ‘100 clubs’ going bankrupt

GENEVA (AP) — Football faces losing many clubs to bankruptcy because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A slowdown in the multi-billion dollar transfer market, and possible defaults on payments from player deals made before the shutdown, were cited as concerns in a debate hosted by a FIFA-backed research centre. “I think the biggest threat to club football in the coming six months is going to be the survival of smaller clubs,” Lokomotiva Zagreb director Dennis Gudasic said.

Gudasic warned of a “drastic situation whereby we have maybe 100, or 200 clubs go bankrupt in September or October” if challenges facing smaller clubs are not understood. Clubs across Europe have been denied commercial revenue with no games in most countries for at least two months, and only fan-free games in empty stadiums likely for months ahead.

Now, many clubs are looking for richer leagues to complete their seasons so that money paid by broadcasters for fulfilling contracts can revive the transfer market.

“This is where there is a lot of uncertainty,” Gudasic said, adding some clubs in Croatia in terms of budgeting had become “actually addicted” to transfer revenue from their former players.

His comments came in an online panel discussion hosted by The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland.

Clubs could go bankrupt waiting for instalments due from player deals made in the past two years, university academic Raffaele Poli cautioned,

“I’m not sure all clubs will be able to pay,” Leading Analyst of Transfer Values Worldwide Poli said.

Clubs in eastern European countries such as Croatia could still make deals in a slower transfer market, Manchester United scout Piotr Sadowski said. Players there would be available at less cost than from clubs in Portugal or France, he said.

An extended transfer window would also help revive the market, the Manchester United scout said, suggesting “unofficial talks” had taken place about the idea.

FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, has agreed to be flexible with the typical July-August trading period in Europe as there is no clarity when the current season will end and the 2020-21 campaign will begin.