Coronavirus was always going to impact football from top to bottom. It was also clear that the way it’s felt by individual clubs will differ wildly based on their circumstances before the virus hit, as well as the level at which they sit in the football pyramid.
For example, there are various Non-League clubs who heavily rely on matchday income such as tickets, food, bar takings, raffles and programme sales to maintain funds. The loss of this income threatens the very existence of many of these clubs.
There are many who are feeling hard-done-by due to the restrictions that have been placed upon sport, and football in particular.
There is also a sense of confusion about the rules’ logic, with an obvious example of their flaws being that some clubs are streaming games in their club house in order to raise funds, boarding up the window to stop fans watching the action through it.
To have supporters in these settings, rather than out in the open, where social distancing is far easier, feels silly at best.
West Ham United are, of course, in a very different boat to those that are hit with the threat of going under.
However, that doesn’t mean the club won’t be impacted at all – it is unavoidable for just about everyone within this industry and others. This comes with FIFA having estimated that the football economy will lose around £8.6bn due to the virus.
Any English club’s plight will have been worsened by Boris Johnson’s announcement that fans weren’t allowed to return on October 1, as had previously been the plan.
There were plenty of reasons for the fans’ return to cause excitement: a further sense of normality, a temporary escape from the troubles these last months have brought up and the joy of being back in stadia across the land.
Alongside those, it is obvious that there would be financial benefits, which have now slipped through the fingers of chairmen and women.
Looking at the Hammers more specifically, according to Claret & Hugh, if fans are kept out of stadiums for six months, as the Prime Minister implied could be the case, the club would lose up to £41m throughout the campaign.
The report says that West Ham earn over £27m in ticket revenue, £12m in corporate hospitality and £100,000 per game in the club shop, which all contribute to that £41m figure. There will be plenty of other revenue streams going into the club, but that is still a large amount of money for anyone to be missing out on.
The board has made sure they get some of that back with player sales. Albian Ajeti, Jordan Hugill and most frustratingly, Grady Diangana have all left, joining Celtic, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion respectively.
Meanwhile, Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Sanchez are now both off of the wage bill after leaving.
Despite the virus, there really aren’t any excuses for new players to be brought in at all, as many feel that more recruits are needed after such a lowly finish last term.
The 4-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers shows this team can turn up on its day, but that won’t be enough to persuade the majority that reinforcements aren’t needed, with relegation seeming a possibility.
Fans will point to the business that other clubs have completed despite the virus. This includes Everton signing James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan, Chelsea’s massive spending spree and Aston Villa strengthening across the pitch.
West Ham supporters have shown their frustrations in the past, and it is likely they will again if nobody is brought in – especially after the aforementioned sale of Diangana.
Getting back to the issue at hand, Premier League clubs are meeting to discuss how to go about proving they can get fans back into stadiums safely.
Having already put a lot of effort and expense into ensuring this is possible, they are also planning on asking the government for an ‘at-the-latest’ date for fans’ returns.
Even with this coming, there is still so much uncertainty around the financial impact Covid-19 will have on clubs.
West Ham are no different, and while we can’t afford for this to prevent any transfers being made at all, it is clear that the club’s finances have been hit.