We have all seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dancing in isolation, and James Milner picking his ‘Isolation XI’ but when football returns the big guys will be fine. With their dieticians, planned fitness routines and luxury lifestyles, this is just like a mid-season break.
But what about the League Two players at the clubs who were already working on shoe-string budgets? As it stands, probably more than a dozen clubs are looking hard at their accounts, trying to figure out how they can continue. This could be extended into League One and possibly the Championship too but some of the teams in League Two will be seriously sweating during this flu-pandemic.
Football as a business model is flawed. Outgoings are often higher than they should be meaning owners, chairmen, benefactors and sponsors often pick up the excess wage bill of the playing staff. Realistically though, the playing staff is less than half the employees.
Chances are, ‘Doris the tea-lady’ and ‘Des the barman’ have been isolated on their £94.25 per week by now, along with shop staff, ticket office personnel and the stewards, who haven’t donned their orange jackets since early March.
I cannot tell you if any of these people qualify for the government pay schemes. They, of course, will be different at every club but aside from wages, costs of a football club will still mount up.
It’s okay if you have a rich owner like Forest Green, the ‘smallest’ league club hailing from a village playing area near Nailsworth. But what about the real little guys?
Did you know Morecambe have not paid a fee for a player for over a decade? Currently sitting above relegation in League Two is not paying the bills, whilst no tickets are being sold. Derek Adams’ side are ten points clear of Stevenage and Adams has built a team from nothing to try and keep ttheir league status. They even some impressive ‘names’ in the squad in Jordan Slew and Toumani Diagouraga to name just two. Yet, the Globe Arena stands empty right now and many must be wondering how long that will be the case.
At the other end, Crewe Alexandra sits top of League Two, on goal difference and have traditionally traded off a good youth system, but their players’ values will stagnate whilst no games are played. Perry Ng has been touted as a top prospect at right-back but no one is seeing his qualities whilst he sits on a sofa in Cheshire (I don’t know where he really lives). Harry Pickering another quality player, also not kicking a ball.
Crawley, Newport, Macclesfield are all credible clubs, but with their passionate but small fanbases, even when the gates re-open, it is going to take more than just capacity crowds to cover the financial shortfall.
Oldham Athletic, once of the Premier League languish in 19th place and may well pick up on the discarded youth of the Mancunian neighbours. Yet, with a wage bill that includes David Wheater, the uncertainty of when football is to return is pulling at the collars of the accounts team.
One thing is certain, we all miss the beautiful game and no matter how many old Match of the Day episodes run during the lockdown, nothing is quite like being at your club at 3 pm on a Saturday.
I wrote a five-part fiction tale on this site, but hopefully, none of the predictions will be close to the truth of our impending re-embrace with football.