'Impossible' to know when football will return as Gary Neville issues stark contract warning

The governing body of Europe's top leagues says it is "impossible" to know when football will be able to resume following the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the shutdown of major sporting events.

Thursday, 16th April 2020, 6:49 pm
All football has been suspended.
All football has been suspended.

Most European leagues have been suspended indefinitely as a result of the crisis and Alberto Colombo, the deputy general secretary of European Leagues, is certain any restart will take place in empty stadiums.

"The priority so far has been on focusing on creating conditions to be able to resume competition during the summer should we be able," Colombo told BBC Sport.

"You need to resume training and develop your own protocols. There's no doubt it will be behind closed doors, so the competition organisers have to develop medical protocols, training protocols, match-operation protocols.

"But, of course, it's impossible to answer the question 'when we will be back playing?' Nobody has these answers."

It has been reported that a number of Premier League clubs will seek a cut-off to the 2019-20 season of July 1 in Friday's shareholders' meeting.

While it is understood the Premier League is reluctant to commit to any firm decisions until the Government puts a plan in place to lift lockdown measures, clubs are said to be wary of the campaign dragging on.

Complicating matters is expiring player and staff contracts, which former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville fears is a "serious problem brewing" for the English Football League.

Neville fears that the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic is such that players whose current deals finish at the end of June will struggle to find new clubs.

"There is a serious problem brewing in the next few months. Over 1,000 players in the Championship, League One and League Two are out of contract at the end of June and clubs haven't got the money to recycle them back into the game," Neville told Sky Sports News' Football Show.

"It's going to be a shock for the whole of football but it will be the players at the lower end of the game who will suffer the most."

The EFL and the Professional Footballers' Association announced yesterday a proposal that League One and League Two clubs defer up to 25 per cent of player wages in April, with those earning less than £2,500 a month still being paid in full.

Championship clubs are expected to make individual decisions on wage deferrals.

"In the next few months there will have to be player cost reductions. It is an absolute given," said Neville.

"What the EFL announced yesterday was the right approach."

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios says the development "loosens the paralysis we've seen" in the third and fourth tiers, but he believes clubs will still struggle to pay on time.

"It will probably assist with the April wages," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. "But I still think that certainly the clubs will be unable to meet the wages in April and then more in May."

The ex-Football Association chief executive warned of dire consequences for the EFL as clubs scramble to get to grips with the Covid-19 situation.