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Kieran Maguire
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Teaching Liverpool University

2020 04 09 Retrieve

[Why Man Utd’s transfer plans will not be affected by the coronavirus crisis] In a depressed market anyone with cash is in a strong position. And anyone with a strong balance sheet, and United do have that, will be able to leverage on that and get bargains. I think both United and City, I would expect them to be able to benefit from the summer transfer market, assuming there is one

Prices will be significantly reduced because clubs have less money. Buying clubs will have less money because of what’s happened and selling clubs will be more desperate for money so it could be they would blink at the first or second offer. I think the transfer window will be severely depleted and those clubs whose business model is based on spotting talent and moving it on for profit they will be very vulnerable

United had £100 million of cash in the bank at the end of December but they will burn through that pretty quickly because their wage bill is £25 million a month. They will start to burn their way through that but they should be fine. If there’s one club globally that can ride out this storm better than others I would say it’s United because they do have a more global fanbase and a greater range of commercial partners than anyone else

2020 04 10 Retrieve

[Furloughs and fan fury: Where has all the Premier League’s money gone?] In terms of the furloughing, I would stress that it’s only a few clubs. There are clubs that are in dire financial straits. The vast majority of clubs say they don’t want to avail of the scheme just yet because they can still afford to pay their non-playing staff wages. And until the situation deteriorates, they will continue doing so. But in the Premier League you have 20 owners and some of them have different perspectives on furloughing, so I think you’ve got to judge it on a case-by-case basis. I think once you move out of the Premier League, and drop down to the lower leagues, furloughing becomes very much a case of necessity in terms of survival. However, in the Premier League, you’ve got clubs like Spurs and only 39 per cent of their income goes on wages. So, there’s absolutely no justification for them availing of the furlough scheme. They’re doing it because they can get away with it. It’s legal - rather than ethical. In the case of Liverpool, you’ve got 300 people on about £30,000 ($37,000) a year, so if you do the sums, you’re talking about a couple of million quid. So, that’s where I found it difficult to justify, given their income. For example, the difference between finishing 13th and 14th in the Premier League is £2.5m ($3.1m) in prize money, so the clubs do have the resources. And, at the end of the day, Liverpool have already conceded that they made the wrong decision. But if we’re still having this conversation in four months, and there is still a furlough scheme going, I’d expect the vast majority of clubs to avail of it. Irrespective of your business, if you have a wage bill of millions of pounds a month, and there’s no money coming in, sooner or later you’re going to run out of cash

[There has already been giddy talk of transfer limits and salary cuts to reduce expenditure and make the game more affordable and, crucially, fairer]

Football fans have short memories. Just look at the example of Claudio Ranieri: He won Leicester the unlikeliest of league title and was sacked eight months later. What will most likely happen is we will be so delighted to have football back that we will forget all about these discussions, because the suspension has shown us how integral football is to our daily lives. The first match will come and there’ll be some controversial decision, all our attention will be focused on that, and football finance will sneak back into its little hole. Remember, the English game learned nothing from the demise of ITV Digital some 15 years ago. I mean, if you think the Premier League is bad, it’s got nothing on the English Football League. That’s a clown’s car of craziness. For example, you’ve got Reading paying £226 in wages for every £100 in income. Yet we heard clubs saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to learn the lessons of the ITV Digital collapse?’ But it was shown to be complete nonsense. And it’s the same in the Premier League. The things that clubs are legally allowed to get with, coupled with the things they’re able to sneak through on a ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ basis, such as selling their own stadia to companies set up by the owner, being sponsored by taxi companies that don’t own any cars, paying a player’s mother huge sums of money because that won’t be considered by the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations… it’s ludicrous. Do not forget either that there was a wage cap in the Premier League. There was a policy called short-term cost control introduced four years ago. And, actually, it was starting to work. So, last July, the 20 club owners voted to abolish it. So, that tells you what you need to know about potential reforms. And what the Premier League is - and always will be

2020 04 24 Retrieve

[Kieran Maguire believes Bundesliga clubs could get transfer market advantage with early restart] I think those clubs and those countries where football returns to a paying audience will start to have a cash advantage. If German football returns before a paying audience in May, then what it could have is that when the transfer market resumes, it will have physically more cash to spend in that market compared to other European countries. It will not be a huge amount because, even in the Bundesliga, clubs are still reliant significantly upon TV money and the very good commercial links that German clubs have. However it would certainly assist those clubs. What they would also be able to do is offer players a promise: ‘If you come to us, when the Bundesliga for 2021 starts, you will have a paying audience in front of you’. That’s a much more attractive proposition for a football player than playing in front of an empty bowl.

The Bundesliga is very organised because it has fan involvement at the heart of the way it operates. Also, we tend to see less lavish spending in the Bundesliga, so therefore it’s in a better position than Premier League clubs to begin with. What people don’t realise is that two thirds of clubs in the Premier League are losing money on a day-to-day basis. They are reliant upon owners, and they are reliant upon the odd windfalls in the form of player sales to balance the books. Even so, we had Chelsea and Everton last year lose over £100million each

There will be legal repercussions unless money is distributed in a way that satisfies everybody. The one thing we know about football is that club owners are a fairly feisty bunch and they’re a very vain bunch, so everybody will be claiming that they’ve been disadvantaged. Therefore, from UEFA’s point of view, it is essential that the Champions League is finished because of the amount of money which is outstanding. First of all, they’ve got broadcasting contracts and, therefore, they’ve got legal obligations to the broadcasters. The Champions League is the big money-earner as far as UEFA is concerned. We would expect to see some form of resumption. There has been talk of one-legged matches; there have been talks of pooled matches in centres to reduce the potential for spreading the virus around. I think we’re a long way away from those decisions because anybody in football who tries to propose something which is not in the interest of public health will get shot down and rightly so.

2020 05 04 Retrieve

[Fate of the European Super League will define the future of football] Let’s be frank, owners in the Premier League from the United Arab Emirates, United States, China or Thailand don’t care about Walsall or Accrington Stanley - it’s collateral damage. If those clubs survive then fine, but if they don’t then the likes of [Roman] Abramovich won’t lose sleep over it. Neither will the Saudi investment fund that’s buying into Newcastle. It is very much geared towards the rich getting richer and an acceleration of the gaps between the existing elite and the rest.

If we take a division like the Championship, the reward won’t be as great for promotion to the Premier League, so therefore the present level of acceleration of wages will be reversed. Then there’s going to be reduction in revenue which will in turn mean a reduction of costs

You would like to think that the clubs higher up would help those beneath them but it’s not going to happen. All you need to do is look at the way the new TV rights were negotiated. All we will see is the owners of those clubs at the top wanting more money and they’re able to exploit the fact they are global brands. They’re only going to want to accelerate that gap rather than wanting to spread the money more evenly to make it a more competitive league

2020 06 05 Retrieve

[A survey conducted last year by the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust found that 90 per cent of the approximately 10,000 participants were unhappy with the way the club was being run. Some would argue it all started with a horse. ‘Rock of Gibraltar’, to be precise. Legendary United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believed he was a part-owner of the champion stallion; Irish businessmen John Magnier and JP McManus disagreed] I think if that particular discussion over the horse had never taken place, we could be watching a very different Manchester United today

[And the American’s ownership of United has been controversial, to say the least. As soon as the takeover was completed, some fans even refused to set foot in Old Trafford ever again. Their anger was rooted in the leveraged nature of the £790m ($998m) deal, which put United into debt for the first time since 1931] It’s a higher-risk model. I think you can get away with it with someone like United, which is a cash cow. But I wouldn’t recommend it under any other circumstances

2020 07 13 Retrieve

[Football finance expert Kieran Maguire explains why Manchester City can now go into the transfer market after their two-year European ban was overturned] This has significant implications for Manchester City. Participation in the Champions League is worth up to £150m a year, therefore by being allowed to compete in the competition for the next two seasons means we’re probably talking somewhere between £200m and £250m. Even for a side with the resources of Manchester City, and the financial backing they have, it will allow them to go out in the transfer market and also pay competitive wages during that period

2020 07 14 Retrieve

[What’s the wider impact for City?] This has significant implications for Manchester City. Participation in the Champions League is worth up to £150m a year, therefore by being allowed to compete in the competition for the next two seasons means we’re probably talking somewhere between £200m and £250m. Even for a side with the resources of Manchester City, and the financial backing they have, it will allow them to go out in the transfer market and also pay competitive wages during that period

In terms of attracting players, that was being questioned and whether current players would want to stay at the highest level so all of those things will be a relief. It also allows them to move forward, sign players and do the things that they want and it won’t be held against them as in ‘I’m not signing because you’re not in Europe’ or ‘Pep’s leaving because they’re not a part of the Champions League’, all that sort of stuff has gone away now.