Coronavirus is football's 'biggest crisis since the collapse of ITV digital'

Dons' Executive Director Andrew Cullen says clubs must ride out the storm
ITV DigitalITV Digital
ITV Digital

The cost of stopping football for the foreseeable future because of coronavirus could spell a disaster for the industry not seen since the early 2000s and the collapse of ITV Digital.

With football postponed until April 3 at the very earliest, financial implications will inevitably hit clubs, not least MK Dons who stand to potentially lose out on four home games should the season not restart.

Macclesfield and Southend are already in turmoil, and Bury were expelled from the EFL as a result of their financial problems before kicking a ball this season. Should the season not restart, Dons' Executive Director Andrew Cullen believes football could be facing another crisis not seen since 2002.

The Football League agreed a huge deal back in 2000, worth £315 million, with ONDigital - later to become ITV Digital - to show matches from the Championship, League One and League Two exclusively. But the collapse of the company in 2002 meant many clubs - including Wimbledon - who were promised broadcast money would be forced into administration, with some still paying the cost now.

With coronavirus threatening the football season, Mr Cullen said clubs are facing a serious financial threat equal to the one they faced in 2002.

"This is the worst crisis since the collapse of ITV Digital in 2002, when a number of clubs committed monies which were not forthcoming. Clubs could not get out of their commitments and went into administration. (Coronavirus) is the biggest single thing to hit clubs since then. We are facing that period again.

"The EFL and Premier League will be looking to help. Let's face it, it's difficult at the moment, but once we get past the peak, it will come back and football will get back on it's feet. It's about riding out the storm as best we can.

"Some clubs may have insurance should the government ban outdoor gatherings of more than 500. Not all clubs will have that in place, but some clubs will be able to cover themselves.

"We will ride the storm – it will be difficult, we're no different to any other club. But we really want to complete the season. We want to make sure we're all ready to kick off the new in August 2020."