Coming out of the tunnel

Messi and his teammates have taken a 70 per cent pay cut.
Messi and his teammates have taken a 70 per cent pay cut. / Reuters
  • Football clubs, like all other businesses, need to find a way out of this maze. Cutting players' pay is just the start

Football, like life for all of us, is at standstill. If I had a euro for every time I've been asked "will the season be completed?", I'd be able to bathe in contraband antibacterial handwash and sleep on a bed of cushioned, luxury loo roll.

There are far more important matters to discuss right now but someday in the future, hopefully the not-too-distant future, we'll need escapism and that's what sport and entertainment brings us.

So, my answer is yes, I think the football authorities will do everything they can to finalise the campaign, for a multitude of reasons, mainly economic - they have to.

Lionel Messi and the Barcelona players have grabbed the headlines for taking a 70 per cent pay cut during the state of alarm. But the issue goes much deeper than the megastars of the game as there's an estimated 184,000 people employed within Spanish football.

It's not just footballers, it's the support staff, matchday workforce and beyond that the hospitality and travel industry.

To pay these people and even the 30 per cent of footballers' wages, the season must be completed, it's as simple as that. If they call it a day, then up to 700 million euros will be lost in deals and it will be chaos.

The sad fact of footballing life is the industry depends on broadcasting rights money and if the Spanish season isn't completed then 550 million euros will be lost in revenue. If the television companies don't air the games, they lose subscriptions, advertising money and even the controversial gambling industry will be hit.

The lawyers would go into overdrive as shirt sponsorship deals would be dissolved, commercial partners would demand a divorce and, more importantly, we'd have nothing to look forward to when we get out of the tunnel.

So, my understanding is that they will put everything on hold and hope for the best.

Meanwhile football clubs, like all other businesses ,need to find a way out of the maze. Some clubs are considering a tax mechanism where salaries are reduced to just 30 per cent. At Barcelona, the players and executives have entered this agreement, so that non-playing staff can be retained on full pay.

Real Madrid claim that they can continue to operate as players' salaries constitute only 52 per cent of the outgoings, although even they may be stretched when the 11 players loaned out elsewhere return to the payroll.

At the time of writing, only Real Valladolid are guaranteeing full payment for everyone.

Away from the doom and gloom, the football clubs and stars are doing their bit. The Santiago Bernabéu has been turned into a storage and distribution centre; clubs like Malaga are working with the community; Valencia bought 50,000 face masks and 300 thermometers; and Messi donated one million euros to two local hospitals.

These are bizarre and testing times. Football is so unimportant, yet it also provides a distraction from the realities. For once, though, itl will have to be realistic when it returns.

Bring on the day when the biggest discussion point is VAR.