Senior executives contemplating how to steer football through the unprecedented crisis of Covid-19 are now talking about June being optimistic as a potential time to restart the season rather than the previous hope of having 30 June as a date to conclude it.
At conference call meetings of Europe’s 55 national football associations along with Uefa on Wednesday, and in England between the PFA, Premier League and EFL, questions about extending players’ contracts across the summer, and the cost of that, will be central.
All the organisations involved in discussions stress they understand football is only a concern for when life can return to normal. As coronavirus continues to spread, 381 people died from Covid-19 in the UK on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,789.
The scale of the health crisis and shutdowns, greater than just a fortnight ago when Uefa took the decision to postpone the European Championship in the hope the vacated June-July period would enable the season to finish, already presented a changed perspective.
Several people who will be involved in the meetings this week are talking in terms of starting in June if possible and running through to August if necessary.
Even that now looks optimistic but the leagues, national associations, Uefa and clubs are still maintaining their focus on finishing their seasons because to do otherwise would leave a black hole for broadcasters and sponsors, who would inevitably need to recoup some of their monies.
With Fifa facilitating the extension of players’ registrations and contracts beyond the standard 30 June termination date, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the international players union, Fifpro, are looking to protect players’ wages as much as possible.
Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, the Fifpro chief executive, said on Tuesday he is looking to negotiate for clubs to retain a whole squad until the new end to the season rather than finish some contracts on 30 June, and for players to be paid in full for any extended contractual period.
The PFA is understood to share that stance and to be resisting any agreement for the deferment of players’ wages until negotiations have been held with clubs individually demonstrating cash flow problems and a genuine need to make savings now. The players’ union is also understood to be resistant to pay cuts, being prepared to discuss only deferments.
“Our preference would be that we have as harmonised a solution on the contract extensions as possible,” Baer-Hoffmann said. “You could very much argue the spirit of the contract is that it runs until the season is over, and a new contract starts with a new season.
“We are very concerned we might end up in a situation where [clubs] pick and choose who is being retained for the last couple of months of the season and who is not. We believe there should be collective solutions.
“The average player we represent is not a millionaire, so we would be arguing those extensions should take place on the same conditions the player signed his or her contract for when they started. We very much feel like this could be resolved with the right will.
“ Frankly this period is putting us all to a big challenge. Unions, our task usually is to negotiate improvements, and right now many of us are faced with realities where we have to manage decreases for many of our members.”
Uefa’s video conference, with the associations’ general secretaries or chief executives, will receive updates from two working groups set up on 17 March.
One is considering the calendar challenges for restarting suspended seasons, the other examining “the economic, financial and regulatory impact of the Covid-19 outbreak”.