COVID19: Cyprus football losing in extra time

3 mins read

Cyprus football clubs are in for a nasty shock as the coronavirus crisis takes its toll on sporting events with initial estimates predicting the game will lose millions from the lockdown.

This season’s first division championship is up in the air, as it is not yet clear whether the Cyprus Football Association will be getting the green light from the government to pick up where it left off.

The top-flight football season was disrupted on 15 March with 45 fixtures to be played for the championship and five for the cup.

The crisis will see clubs lose out on proceeds from these games, with each match expected to see between 5-12,000 fans, while payments for TV rights have been put on hold.

Tickets for Cyprus games range from €10 to €20.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, the Vice president of the Cyprus Football Association Nick Nicolaou, said that the country’s football clubs have taken a hard blow from the coronavirus crisis with a lasting effect.

He said that there is no way that the current season will be completed with fans attending games.

“That is the first blow they have taken. We at the CFA are prepared to continue the championship if the state allows us, but teams have already lost any income from tickets for the rest of the season,” said Nicolaou.

He noted that the games left are the playoffs which traditionally have more fans attending.

CFA’s vice president said most clubs will in the red by a few million due to the loss of income for the two months of lockdown, while they are not expected to have any income as no games are played during the summer months.

Next season problematic

“Furthermore, football clubs in Cyprus will have to kick-off the new season with another loss of a minimum €5 mln as they will not be able to sell any season tickets for games to be played in 2020-21 season,” said Nicolaou.

This is because there is no exact date for when the new season will kick-off while it is highly likely that games will be played behind closed doors until the end of the year.

The CFA is looking into the possibility of the 2020-21 season being truncated.

“This being the case, no fan would want to spend a few hundred euros for games they will not have access to.”

Nicolaou said Cyprus football clubs could not have a different fate than the rest of their European counterparts.

Based on discussions he had with the European Football governing body UEFA, it is estimated that the damage to football will be a few billion at a European level, fundamentally changing the game.

Nicolaou said that estimates over losses have yet to include clubs’ obligations to salaries as a number of associations in Europe are in negotiations with player unions.

Most clubs have proceeded with individual agreement foreseeing wage reductions and other payment arrangements.

“A number of clubs and associations are running out of liquidity which might mean that a large percentage of Associations by the end of June will no longer have liquidity and will be faced with the risk of bankruptcy.

A number of big clubs also run the risk of closing shop.”

In Cyprus, some historical teams, playing in smaller divisions might face the risk of extinction, but as Nicolaou said, the CFA will do everything possible to help them out.

“Football players will also be hit by the crisis as their value drop, along with their paycheques. It goes without saying that football needs a helping hand,” added Nicolaou.

He said the crisis will also affect the capability of Cyprus teams qualifying for Europe to present competitive sides on the field, as liquidity will be scarce.

Meanwhile, football clubs will have to continue meeting UEFA’s financial fair play criteria, keeping their finances in order and paying their obligations.

“The criteria will continue normally; it cannot be stopped. However, we have given clubs an extra month to submit their accounts and pay some outstanding obligations.”

Some clubs have stopped their operations and applied for help through the government scheme to support businesses by subsidising the wages of their employees.

“I’m interested to see how that goes, as we need the government to step in and offer some sort of support.”

Nicolaou commented on the latest row between the CFA and the Cyprus players union (PASP), regarding pay cuts.

“The CFA has proposed a reduction of 23% to footballers which has been rejected. Currently, the focus is on trying to find a formula which will allow Cyprus clubs to be able to cope with the new conditions created by the coronavirus crisis,” said Nicolaou.

He said that everyone involved in football will be losing out from the crisis, which means that everyone should pull together so that Cyprus football can survive to see the day after.

“The best example that comes to mind, is AC Roma’s players who offered one-third of their annual earnings in an effort to save the club from dire financial straits following the coronavirus.”