Ipswich Town could lose £500k if season is completed behind closed doors

Ipswich Town still have five games left to play at Portman Road in 2019/20. Photo: PA

Ipswich Town still have five games left to play at Portman Road in 2019/20. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Ipswich Town could miss out on around £500k in gate receipts if they are forced to play the remainder of the season behind closed doors.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo: Steve

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

With the coronavirus crisis seeing all football suspended until at least the end of April, PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes believes playing games in front of no fans is looking like the only realistic way to get the season completed by the targeted deadline of June 30.

League One clubs have been able to claim up to £433k through the EFL’s relief package, but finance experts warn that short-term cash injection, which is made up of advanced Basic Award payments and interest-free loans, won’t cover shortfalls beyond the next five weeks.

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It’s understood the Blues take in around £100k per home game, not including season ticket revenue, and Paul Lambert’s men still have five games left to play at Portman Road.

“In an ideal world we’d be playing in front of crowds but I think it’s more a case of there being no alternative,” PFA chief Barnes told The Athletic. “Players are realistic. They don’t want to play behind closed doors if possible, but we’re not in an ideal world and the ones I’ve spoken to accept that’s what it will have to be.

“Football is about fans. But the reality for the vast majority of the players, particularly at the highest level, is their income is funded by television money and there are contracts that have to be adhered to.

“In order for us (the PFA) to be able to protect those players in terms of securing their salaries, if that’s the only offer we have on the table to complete the season, then that is what it will be.

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”If we’re going to get the season finished in a timely fashion so we can even consider starting next season, we’ve got to be open to all options.”

Chris Winn, a football finance academic at the University Campus of Football Business (UCFB), believes owners will be desperate to see the season restart as soon as safely possible. His research shows that, on average, League One clubs will spend around £1.3m** during this current period with no action.

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“The relief package from the EFL, though gratefully received by each club and much needed, is only going to last so long,” said Winn. “If clubs’ outgoings continue to be the same and the suspension extends into May or games are played on a behind-closed-doors basis, then wider gaps in funding may develop.

“What this does highlight is the importance of continuing owner contributions in EFL clubs to the extent permitted, alongside the timing of broadcast and commercial cash inflows and the government wage support being made available to all businesses that require it.

“These figures however assume that other forms of income, including broadcast and other commercial streams, are not impacted over coming weeks. If the suspension of the season continues into late May or even June, will broadcasters or sponsors suspend or withhold payment and, if so, how long can owners realistically and feasibly continue to contribute?”

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A big part of Town owner Marcus Evans’ business empire is hosting conferences and summits, an industry that has been badly disrupted by the spread of Covid-19. It’s understood he is better equipped than most to deal with this troublesome period though as he doesn’t rely on big bank loans.

Winn added: “At what is a critical period for all businesses big and small, the measures provided by both the EFL and wider government will hopefully mean that by the time football returns, all our clubs are still operational. However, with EFL clubs historically being loss-making, and there being little sign of that changing, the present crisis may provide further evidence that this status quo, including the associated business models and revenue distribution mechanisms, needs to be addressed once business, and football, returns to normality.”

**Based on Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance 2019 for 2017/18 season, assuming 33% of revenue from match-day sources and clubs receive 75% of their match day revenue from general admissions.