Premier League clubs fear there will be huge financial ramifications in the likely event that broadcasters demand heavy refunds even if the season is completed.
Top-flight clubs were told last week they will have to give between £300m and £350m back to TV companies even if the 92 games still to be played take place and their anger deepened after discovering broadcasters are due an extra £36m in rebates for every week the 2019-20 season extends beyond 16 July. It is understood some clubs are concerned those demands could lead to severe cost-cutting and job losses.
Harsh financial realities caused by the coronavirus pandemic are at the heart of the league’s push to return to action, with a bill of £762m due to Sky, BT Sport and international broadcasters if the season is cancelled. Although clubs took the first steps towards resuming the season after beginning small group training on Tuesday, the expectation is that games are unlikely to be played before 19 June and that 26 June may be a more realistic start date. Managers and players are opposed to a proposed return of 12 June because of fitness concerns after a long hiatus. With games expected to be spread over six or seven weeks, the season will likely run for at least three weeks after 16 July.
The later it starts, the greater the cost could be to the clubs. As first reported by the Daily Telegraph, there is a sliding scale of payments due depending on when the season finishes. Full details of the rebate model will be presented to the 20 clubs when they hold their conference calls next Tuesday and Thursday.
Although the cost of not playing would be even worse, clubs used a meeting this week to voice displeasure about broadcasters seeking money even if the season finishes. A penalty of at least £300m applies because they would not be able to fulfil contractual obligations around the timing and delivery of a product played in empty stadiums, and the prospect of additional rebates has caused further disquiet among senior executives. One executive warned that a demand for refunds would cause financial problems and could force some clubs into redundancies. Another club has told the Guardian they are braced for a 25% loss of turnover in one three-month period.
Clubs are unhappy with the TV companies given they are prepared to grant broadcasters greater access and more live games when the season resumes. There is a feeling that broadcasters want to pay less despite being able to show more football. Yet with the terms of the contract favouring the broadcasters, the clubs will find it hard to negotiate a new agreement.
One possibility is that the clubs will attempt to reach an agreement with broadcasters to spread payments over several years.