Sport "There will be a before and after the crisis,...

“There will be a before and after the crisis, football will have to think differently”

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Bernard Caïazzo, in May 2019. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

Crises are conducive to questioning. That caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting the economy as a whole. Football, an industry in its own right, is no exception. The model on which it has been built for years is being roughed up. The world has decided to question some of its actors on the management of the current crisis, what it reveals, how to get out of it and, perhaps, the changes to be made. Bernard Caïazzo, co-owner of AS Saint-Etienne and president of Premier League, the employers’ union representing most of the Ligue 1 clubs, addresses these subjects. And sketches the picture of football after, more regulated, less geared towards short-term profit.

The use of short-time working in England by a powerful club such as Liverpool has shocked public opinion. Do you understand, when almost all French clubs have used the same system, paid for by the State?

People confuse the wealth of Ronaldo or Neymar with that of the clubs. Take a business from another non-essential sector, entertainment or tourism: the cessation of its activity is compensated by the State. Why shouldn’t football have the right to use it? This would mean that a traditionally-owned club like ours would be penalized and that the clubs could only be owned by billionaires.

Read also Coronavirus: French football reached agreement for lower wages in April

Will we see professional clubs disappear in France in the coming year?

I don’t see any clubs in trouble after the current season. The clubs have reserves that will be mobilized as well as borrowing capacity. If, in the worst case, we don’t resume the season, we can get out of it without default.

The big topic is the 2020-2021 season. The lights were all green a few months ago – player sales, marketing development, television rights – and went red. Our transfer window depends on the economic situation of our neighbors: if they resume, they can keep the purchase prices of players at a good level, otherwise … The International Center for the Study of Sport (CIES) already estimates the decline to 28 %.

The French economic fabric is undergoing the full-blown crisis, which will have repercussions on our marketing revenues, estimated down 20%: many clubs have local partners who will be less present. Finally, there is the issue of television rights. If the commitments are not all kept, we can have, from October or November, clubs in serious difficulty.

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