Sky and BT will ‘lose £1bn if sporting events stay shut until August’

Sky and BT will lose almost £1bn in revenue if top-flight sport remains shut down until August, according to a report that recommends players take a pay cut to support their clubs.

In England, the Premier League has postponed matches until at least 30 April, and it appears increasingly unlikely that the league will resume then as the government’s nationwide lockdown is expected to continue for months.

“The hypothesis informing governments assumes an initial three-month long lockdown,” said Enders Analysis, which published the report. “Group activities of 25 people involving close physical contact without protection will not plausibly be the first to be allowed when when some social life resumes.”

Sky has stopped charging commercial clients such as pubs that carry Sky Sports, and pay-TV subscribers can “pause” their payments. BT has told customers to call to “discuss their contract or other options”, while some customers on its flexible pay-TV package can elect to drop sport.

“Assuming a worst-case scenario of a four-month suspension of all sports coverage (British and foreign), with all sports subscribers pausing their contract and wholesale clients being allowed to follow suit, Sky would lose £700m and BT £228m in revenues,” Enders said.

The report says that beyond July Sky and BT will start saving money if sport remains off screens as upcoming rights payments would be postponed or cancelled.

Sky and BT are due to pay the Premier League the six-month licence fee for the first half of the 2020-21 season, which amounts to about £530m in total, in July. BT’s annual bill to Uefa for the Champions League rights is £394m.

The report suggests players need to play their part as clubs struggle economically, with wages accounting for 59% of revenues across the Premier League.

“Football’s cost structure is pretty simple: most of the receipts flow into players’ pockets,” the report says. “The best solution is collectively negotiated pay cuts, but negotiating pay cuts with players is as difficult as herding cats.”

One top-flight German club has reached a deal with players and another is in talks. In France, Lyon has put players on the public “temporary” unemployment scheme, which should cut pay bills by half.

“To limit disruption, pain will have to be shared across the supply chain with players’ pay first in line,” the Enders report says.

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