An online streaming service has written to the Premier League to defer payments due to the suspension of competition due to the coronavirus outbreak. It is understood that DAZN, which holds rights to stream all English top-flight matches in Brazil, Canada, Japan and Spain, is in negotiations to halt payments until there is clarity on when and how the season can be completed.
The league announced last Friday that there was no prospect of professional football returning by the start of May, and that it was instead keeping a decision on when the game could safely come back under constant review. DAZN said in a statement: “We don’t discuss commercial conversations but we are, of course, in the process of working closely with partners to reach reasonable solutions given the unprecedented circumstances.”
Premier League clubs were reported to have told players in a conference call on Saturday that the cost of being unable to resume the season at all would be more than £1bn. It is estimated that of that amount, £762m would be lost TV revenue as rights holders either claw back money paid or withhold payments.
It is understood talks are continuing between players, the PFA and the Premier League clubs over a 30%wage reduction by way of cuts and deferrals, dependent on what the outcome is.
The PFA released a statement on Saturday saying players want to ensure any financial contribution they make will support their clubs and remove the need for non-playing staff to be furloughed, and also support the NHS.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said last week that Premier League footballers should “play their part” at a time of national crisis and take a pay cut. Over the weekend, he suggested footballers could donate to hospices to enable them to continue to provide end-of-life care at a time when other fund-raising has dried up.
Burnley’s manager, Sean Dyche, whose club said over the weekend they would lose £50m if the season is not finished, defended the position of players and the time it was taking to reach an agreement on a way forward. “The idea of making things happen at the flick of a switch is just not feasible. There is a lot more to it,” he said.
The pressure on players has been increased by the fact that clubs, including the runaway league leaders Liverpool, have announced plans to furlough some non-playing staff under the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
“It is important to remember that it is not from the players, it is not their decision to furlough staff,” Dyche said. “I can assure everyone I know for a fact that individual players are doing things from their own pockets for different causes.
“What happens then is they do all that and someone comes along and says, ‘Right we are taking this from you’, and they go, ‘Hang on a minute, I am already doing all this’. You have to be careful and remind people that a lot of players are giving a lot at the minute.”
Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said on Monday that the apparent deadlock between clubs and players was “deeply concerning”. The PFA claimed on Saturday that cutting 30% from players’ salaries would result in a £200m drop in the amount players pay to the government in income tax.