The coronavirus crisis is having a massive impact on football across the world.
Serie A and the J-League have both been temporarily suspended due to the outbreak, with the English game now pondering whether similar action will be necessary in the coming weeks.
Two Premier League clubs have told the Telegraph that the top-flight season could still be put on hiatus.
At present, it seems a more realistic prospect is games being played behind closed doors. That would be particularly devastating for champions-elect Liverpool, whose senior officials worry fans won’t be present for the moment they lift their first title in 30 years.
However, down the divisions the situation is prompting even bigger fears. If fans were banned from attending games to prevent the spread of the virus, it would inevitably mean a huge financial hit on ticket sales.
Clubs would also have to refund season-ticket holders who have already paid for upcoming games.
According to The Guardian, the economic consequences could be so severe for Football League clubs that some actually fear going out of business.
Those in League One and League Two are the most concerned. The further down the football pyramid you go, the more dependent teams are on gate receipts – especially as they receive comparatively little from TV funds.
Gary Neville expressed his concern over the situation on Twitter:
There has been talk, albeit unconfirmed, that the UK could follow in the footsteps of other countries, where any ‘mass gatherings’ of more than 1000 people have been banned.
Football authorities have admitted they will have to follow government advice in the coming weeks and months and will put the health of the public, as well as players and staff, first.
Per the same report, it is thought ‘unlikely’ that the government would step in and compensate organisations who might be affected.
This is such an unprecedented situation that the majority of clubs will not be insured against a potential epidemic, a Championship senior executive noted.
Fortunately, official advice still maintains that there is at present “no rationale” for postponing events in Britain altogether or for closing the doors to supporters.
The thought of games being closed behind closed doors really is a concerning one, not just for the atmosphere surrounding the remainder of the season but for the very future of certain clubs.
As they say, football without fans is nothing.
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