PREMIER LEAGUE

Coronavirus: Premier League clubs to discuss football's 'millennium bug'

With football suspended and looking unlikely to have finished by 30 June as a result of the coronavirus crisis, clubs and players are left in limbo.

Coronavirus: Premier League clubs to discuss football's 'millennium bug'
OLI SCARFF AFP

At the turn of the new millennium, there were widespread fears that the world’s financial and communication systems may come grinding to a halt. The computer networks on which society functioned had to be swiftly re-programmed to ensure that banks did not collapse and planes did not fall from the sky.

European football’s ‘New Year’ takes place on 30 June. That is the date on which contracts and deals usually expire to fit in with the ending and beginning of a new domestic season.

Out-of-contract players become free agents during the close-season; kit-manufacturing deals end in time for the launch of the new strip; and managers and other club officials can be judged on the success of the previous campaign.

Contract nightmare for clubs

However, this year, with football suspended and looking unlikely to have finished by 30 June, clubs and players are left in limbo.

Most pressing of these issues is the implications for players’ contracts. There are believed to be close to 80 Premier League players whose current deals are due to end this summer. Willian, Jan Vertonghen, Ryan Fraser, John Lundstram and Matty Longstaff are amongst those whose contracts may expire before another ball is kicked.

In the Football League the outlook is even bleaker, with huge numbers of players out of contract each summer. Players in the lower leagues are usually given short-term contracts due to their comparatively low worth on the transfer market and it is not uncommon for their contract to be allowed to expire and to leave the club.

Gary Neville spoke on Sky Sports about a “serious problem brewing”, with clubs unlikely to be able to sign those free agents due to the huge drop in income that clubs are suffering.

“Over 1,000 players in the Championship, League One and League Two are out of contract at the end of June and clubs haven't got the money to recycle them back into the game".

A number of kit manufacturers’ deals are also due to end this summer, with Liverpool’s switch from New Balance to Nike the most high-profile. If the season were to resume later in in the summer, it is unclear who would be producing the kit.

Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville has warned that there is a "serious problem brewing".

Deadline to be discussed at league meeting

Some Premier League clubs are believed to be trying to pre-empt these issues by calling for a strict cut-off for the current season. Mirror Sport has reported that at least nine clubs have discussed the possibility of a 30 June deadline for the 2019/20 season to prevent any over-spill into football’s next ‘season’.

Some way to resolve the current season would need to be agreed, with sides having played differing numbers of games, but it would at least provide a clean break before football can resume for the new season.

The Premier League is holding a meeting on Friday to discuss the future of the current season, with the 30 June deadline likely to enter into the discussion.