“You’re not singing anymore!” How COVID-19 is killing English football.

Football clubs in England are suffering at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic, with fans unable to attend games since early March. Many clubs up and down the country were given hope of a return of fans on October the 1st, but this quickly evaporated as the Government further delayed the return. This has left clubs from the Football League all the way up to the Premier League with uncertainty in their future.

No queue! Scenes of fenced off club owned stalls are a common sight at The Emirates.

In the Premier League, despite matchday revenue being down, the story is of clubs making money, with the massive TV deals that clubs receive reaching a higher amount than any season since 16/17 as per Deloitte. However, even though clubs are having successful years in the top flight financially, the lack of spectators and football as an ‘event’ is having damaging real life effects. As shown in the pictures above all official Arsenal vendors are shut besides the main Armoury store. Along with this stewards up and down the country have been furloughed or made redundant contributing to the massive need for work in England currently. Whilst top clubs are trying to keep staff in work, as the need for them lowers, the security of their jobs weakens.

No need to sell tickets when there is no football…

Whilst Premier League clubs are suffering with the impact of COVID-19, the Football League face an even tougher situation, with more reliance on matchday revenue than their Premier League counterparts. In fact, teams in the football league have worried about being able to pay players and even keep the lights on during the pandemic, with finance expert Dr Wilson saying the pandemic “is the single biggest ever challenge to professional football in this country” [BBC]. Owners who feel they cannot continue with their club through this time are also being left in a difficult position, as former Luton Town manager Graeme Jones, who lost his job due to the pandemic, has said, “Right now there’s not really a queue of people willing to buy football clubs.” [BBC]. Compared to the top flight, the Football League is facing cuts to players and managers as part of the pandemic, rather than just matchday staff as most of their money is made on a matchday and there is simply less money in comparison to the Premier League.

League Two side Leyton Orient have seen no fans at games since March, this is not what a Sunday afternoon normally looks like on Brisbane Road.

One commonly shared issue in the communities of every club in the country no matter the size, is the decimation of matchday crowds for businesses outside of football. Bars, burger vans, restaurants, newsagents and even fan magazines are all losing out on money and will continue to do so until fans are back.

This Italian restaurant would normally be thriving on a Sunday afternoon with Arsenal at home, but instead the shutters are down…

This is a massive issue, as businesses near football clubs often rely on large crowds for big influxes of money and can be located in remote areas. One local shopkeeper near The Emirates told me “business is obviously slower yes, we thrive when the football crowds are here”.

This pub, which often catered for away fans, almost looked abandoned on a Sunday afternoon, accompanied with very few people shopping in the newsagents behind.

Residents of areas surrounding football grounds may well be pleased with some peace and quiet, as one resident told me “It is less stressful, I suppose”. Despite this, the general consensus from both areas was that football is sorely missed from a financial perspective, as even residents rented front gardens to sell food on matchdays. Clubs up and down the country along with their communities don’t just want fans back, they need them.

Some hope, as a popular food vender’s gates are shut but lights remain, signaling there will be fans again one day…