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Opinion

Furlough issue a double problem for Newcastle in summer transfer window unless new owners come in

5 months ago
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This should have been the start of the summer transfer window.

Wednesday 10 June was the date that Premier League clubs could start to do business, in preparation for the 2020/21 season.

Of course, things have changed, the best laid plans affected by the virus issue, the football industry finding itself having to plan again as they look for the best ways of mitigating the situation.

The summer transfer window for Premier League clubs was set to go from 10 June to 5pm on 1 September 2020.

However, like pretty much every other major league, the original dates have been scrapped.

Richard Masters (Premier League CEO) has indicated that the summer transfer window for PL clubs won’t open until after this 2019/20 league season is completed, so late July at the very earliest.

All the indications are that this would then run into sometime in October, a number of weeks after the 2020/21 Premier League should have started in September.

This is all of course reliant on how the virus situation goes but most major European leagues appear to be looking to formulate similar plans and timings.

Nobody knows how this 2020 summer transfer window will play out but you can certainly speculate on a number of things that are likely.

We are surely all but guaranteed to see less money spent overall, due to the virus situation hitting finances of pretty much all clubs.

With less money around, you would assume the average price paid per player will be lower.

Predators. Without doubt you will see many Premier League clubs attempting to exploit the current situation, whether it is targeting players at PL clubs who are suffering most financially from the virus impact. Certainly this will be the case looking at Championship clubs and below, who don’t have the PL level TV deals to help them.

Most other European leagues will also suffer disproportionately compared to those clubs in the Premier League, as they are far more reliant on things like matchday revenue as a proportion of their turnover. French clubs look especially vulnerable, as their government forced the 2019/20 season to end early and ensured every Ligue 1 club was financially penalised when it came to breaking their commitments to broadcasters and sponsors.

Coming to Newcastle United, I think we face a very unique double furlough problem, unless new owners take over in the near future.

A number of Premier League clubs announced they were using (abusing) the government’s furlough scheme, taking tax payers’ money to pay their staff.

However, realising the implications…the likes of Liverpool and Spurs rapidly did a u-turn and apologised for even considering taking advantage of public money to pay their staff.

As well as the very negative publicity using the furlough scheme would bring, it was widely reported that many PL clubs had opted not to abuse the government scheme because of the complications it would cause further down the line when it came to the transfer market. In other words, how could a football club be seen to take millions of taxpayer money to pay normal staff, then as soon as the summer transfer market opens, be spending £10m, £20m, £30m, £40m, £50m+ on just one player?

Which brings us to Newcastle United.

In the end, only Norwich City and NUFC have used the furlough scheme to pay club staff.

The Canaries are all but certain to be relegated so their transfer spending will become more of a Championship issue.

Leaving us with the Magpies.

So after taking money from the public purse to pay staff, can you imagine the headlines if Newcastle lay out £40m on ‘another Joelinton‘ this summer?

To make matters worse, if Mike Ashley still owns Newcastle United, you can take for granted he will be exploiting the situation. Ashley and his PR people putting out the message that of course it would be inappropriate for major transfer spending in summer 2020, after accessing government help to pay staff.

An absolute justification for this owner to have the most austere summer transfer window imaginable. A bit like in the past where Ashley’s people would be pushing the message of how (supposedly) credibly NUFC are run because they stay well within financial play regulations (by not showing any ambition in the transfer market!), now it would be claiming Newcastle are a shining example for not spending money during these difficult virus times for everybody.

The thing is, we wouldn’t get sight of the actual true financial situation at St James Park until a year later, when other more recent / current issues will then dilute the fact that yet again Mike Ashley has played both fans and media.

Having the Newcastle United takeover going through, would of course surely tick all boxes.

One of their first acts would definitely be to pay back any money which Mike Ashley has disgracefully taken from the tax payer using the furlough scheme, which then of course means ambitious summer transfer window moves wouldn’t carry that baggage.

We already knew that the short-term and longer-term prospects for Newcastle United, very much hinged on this change of ownership.

However, this upcoming transfer window looks as though it could well be an absolute disaster for NUFC, if Mike Ashley is still in control.

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