Masters: "We face a £1bn loss, at least, if we fail to complete season 2019/20, and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends into the future."
Tuesday 7 April 2020 21:16, UK
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has warned the league faces losing at least £1bn if the season is not completed.
In a letter in reply to MP and DCMS chair Julian Knight - who had called for a windfall tax on clubs that cut the pay of non-playing staff without reducing that of players - Masters said clubs could go out of business if such a levy was imposed.
"You will appreciate like much of the productive economy in the UK we are losing revenue at an unprecedented level," Masters wrote.
"We face a £1bn loss, at least, if we fail to complete season 2019/20, and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends into the future.
"This would negatively impact not only the finances of the 20 Premier League clubs but would also have a significant detrimental effect across the whole professional landscape."
Earlier this week, Premier League leaders and reigning European champions Liverpool backtracked on their original decision to furlough some 200 non-playing staff following an avalanche of criticism.
Solihull MP Knight was critical of Premier League teams taking advantage of the government scheme but Masters said clubs should not be treated separate to the rest of the economy.
"The furlough scheme announced by government is meant for the whole economy, including many enterprises which might be regarded as providing entertainment or otherwise dependent on elite talent," Masters wrote.
"We do agree with you that restraint needs to be shown by all and we and our clubs are doing just that.
"Individual clubs will need to make these decisions based on their own forecasts as each club will have its own unique position. Government's measures have considered the whole economy.
"It is important to recognise that these decisions need to be taken with the short, medium and long-term all in mind.
"Not only is our industry facing losses now, but to be realistic, we must all also base our plans on full recovery being some distance away."
By Bryan Swanson, Chief Reporter, Sky Sports News
At a time when the death toll continues to rapidly rise around the world, the Premier League's top executives know that football pales into insignificance.
They want the game to return, but only when it is safe to do so.
In assessing Richard Masters' response to parliament, it is worth reading between the lines.
Does his response suggest a sense of surprise that football's top clubs have been singled out for criticism, by members of a committee which interrogate much more than one sport?
Julian Knight is chair of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee and their focus is on more than football.
It includes all sports and other forms of entertainment.
On the emotive issue of top clubs requesting government bailouts for non-playing staff, Masters pointedly replied: "The furlough scheme announced by the Government is meant for the whole economy, including many enterprises which might be regarded as providing entertainment or otherwise dependent on elite talent. Government's measures have considered the whole economy."
In other words - every business should be protected, where is your criticism of others? It's not just well-paid footballers that are 'elite talent'.
Masters acknowledged: "We do agree with you that restraint needs to be shown by all and we, and our clubs, are doing just that."
But, to reinforce his earlier point, he reminded Knight: "Government's measures have considered the whole economy."
As Masters' letter highlights, Premier League clubs pay more than £3billion a season in tax, including more than £1billion by players.
But, as he wrote: "Clubs, like much of the UK economy, are facing tough decisions in relation to protecting their future and their employees."
What is clear is that, in these desperately sad times, the Premier League wants its clubs to be treated, and criticised, in the same way as every other major entertainment and media business.
An unnamed Premier League club owner, meanwhile, has warned players are playing a dangerous game by not agreeing to take a 30 per cent wage cut immediately.
He told Sky Sports News the situation is so serious clubs at all levels of the game - including the Premier League - could go out of business unless something is done soon about players' wages.
He also said it is possible games at the start of next season will be played behind closed doors.
Premier League clubs asked players to take a 30 per cent pay cut last Friday to protect jobs.