FOOTBALL clubs will ‘fall by the wayside’ as the crippling effects of the coronavirus shutdown take hold of the sport, according to a leading expert in sports business.

Professor Simon Chadwick, Global Director of Eurasian Sport and Professor of the Eurasian Sport Industry at Emlyon Business School, is concerned that football clubs were chronically unprepared for a crisis such as the one the world is currently facing, and that many of them will not be able to survive the short-term cashflow shortage that comes with the absence of gate receipts and other associated revenue.

The Joint Response Group set up by the SFA and the SPFL yesterday brought forward Club Licensing and Club Academy Scotland payments of £1.5m due at the end of the year to help Scottish clubs weather the indefinite hiatus, and Professor Chadwick does believe that football will flourish long after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. But what it is far from certain is just how many clubs will make it to the other side.

“I do think clubs will go out of business, I genuinely do,” Chadwick said.

“I don’t think that football is facing an existential crisis, because we are already beginning to see how important football is to us in terms of our health and wellbeing, our self-identity, and in terms of social cohesion. What we are going to see is that post-coronavirus football will be as vibrant and healthy as it always has been, and arguably, it may become even more so.

“I am taking a very Darwinian view of all of this though, survival of the fittest, and I don’t think some clubs or competitions out there are as fit as they could be, and as a consequence they may not survive.

“You can blame the coronavirus, but at the same time, I also think that a lot of clubs – even at the best of times – are not set up to withstand crises. It just so happens it is the coronavirus, it could have been something completely different, like a disaster involving the team or problems with the stadium. I just don’t think that some of the organisations out there are fit enough to survive the crisis they now face.

“My view - and I don’t think it’s apocalyptic, it’s just an honest assessment of the situation - is that some of those organisations will fall by the wayside.”

The cash advance handed out by the SFA and SPFL should ease some of the immediate worries of Scottish clubs, but Chadwick contends that even government intervention may be required to hel sustain clubs right across the United Kingdom.

“The most obvious problem is cashflow,” he said. “Even at the best of times, many of these clubs are living on a hand-to-mouth basis, and need the ticket money on a Saturday to pay the bills that are coming in the following week.

“If that cashflow isn’t going through, then they are going to have issues with paying suppliers, ground rents if they have them, paying staff, paying players, so the issue then becomes to what extent can they sustain those cashflow difficulties?

“In some cases, they are going to be in a position where they have either got reserves, can borrow or reach an agreement with the people they are working with, but the longer this goes on the more problematic it becomes for those clubs trying to manage short-term cashflow.

“In my view, unless there is some sort of support coming either from the league, the bigger clubs or the government, it could well be that the virus puts some of these clubs out of business."

Through his work, Professor Chadwick is in constant contact with people in China, where the coronavirus originated. Through that experience, he thinks there is a naivety around Europe at present in regards to the extent of the crisis that is imminent on these shores.

That’s why he believes the target set by UEFA for national associations to have completed their domestic fixtures by the end of June is wildly unrealistic.

“Sport as we have known it is now on the back-burner,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it, because congregating among large numbers of people - whether you are a spectator or whether you are a player – can lead to the increased transmission for the virus.

“I don’t see that changing any time soon. I spoke to someone in China on Tuesday, and they told me that their parents have now been inside for seven weeks.

“I really don’t think that people in Europe truly understand what is about to happen. I don’t see football starting again in any form until possibly May, so the simple reality is that football as the sport we have known is not going to be there for a while.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, so I can’t tell you when the virus will or won’t go away, all I can do is give you an opinion based upon the regular contact I have with people in China. The start of their football season has been postponed since the beginning of March, it’s still not underway yet, so it will be delayed.

“If we were to start on the 1st of May, I would be surprised. And there will be nine or 10 games to play in most cases. So, even if we take the most optimistic view, you would be playing two or three games a week to make the 30th of June deadline.

“I think UEFA will have to revisit that in late April or early May, because I think the notion of finishing fixtures by the end of June is hugely optimistic.

“Everybody is going to face huge challenges. I’m not saying the apocalypse is upon us, but this will really test the management expertise of the people running football clubs.”