MODERN football could hardly claim to be modelled on the tenets of socialism, but a leading professor says that abandoning its capitalist principles may be vital in order for clubs to weather the coronavirus shutdown.

Neil Graney, Professor of Management and Marketing at Durham University Business School and an expert in sports business, thinks that leagues both north and south of the border should look into the creation of a solidarity fund in order to protect the most vulnerable clubs during this indefinite period of inactivity.

In England, that may mean the top EPL clubs sacrificing a small percentage of their gargantuan broadcasting revenues in order to help those further down the food chain, while in Scotland, that may mean a more even distribution of prize money, regardless of where clubs finish this season, or if the season is indeed played to a conclusion.

If cup competitions are scrapped in a truncated season next term too, the prize money could be distributed now among clubs if competition sponsors take an entrepreneurial approach to the current crisis.

“Definitely these options are all worth exploring,” Graney said. “Dr Rob Wilson of Sheffield Hallam University has suggested two percent of broadcasting revenue from the Premier League would be enough to build a solidarity fund to help those in need.

“In those terms, it is very doable, but we know how the Premier League works in terms of its capitalist approach, they will be thinking ‘why should we help other clubs?’ If they thought any differently, the likes of Bury would still be here.

“It would need to be legislated, something that is out of the control of the clubs, whether that comes from the Premier League itself or elsewhere. I think we’re going to see a lot of legal battles in terms of things like sponsors and what they are due.

“Society in general does seem to be pulling together, so they may surprise me. It’s an unprecedented situation.

“Perhaps next season you could pull the cups too and use that prize money just now to plug gaps.

“That would depend on having a sponsor who was clever and was willing to gift their sponsorship to allow that to happen.

“You see this sort of thing with companies gifting space on shirts to charities or leaving it blank, it is a good way of someone with a vested interest in sport to help out and also benefit.

“Look at Gary Neville giving over his hotels to NHS staff. That is a great move, but when people in the future go to Manchester for football, they will perhaps look at his hotels first for somewhere to stay off the back of that.

“There is the creation of a sort of social will, and people will remember these kinds of acts. I’m writing these examples down, because I’ll be teaching about them, and they will have a longer-lasting impact.

“This situation is never going to be a positive, but good things could come out of it if people do things well.”

Clubs should also be thinking of innovative ways to tap into the massive goodwill they enjoy from their supporters, according to Graney, developing ways in which those who are able to can help out financially in the short term and still get the benefit of it personally in the long-term.

“There’s a scheme in Manchester called Pay It Forward which has been developed by hospitality leaders, and it is an area that sport could perhaps look into,” he said.

“Essentially, you buy a pre-payment card just now for your favourite café or whatever to give them that immediate cashflow, and that can then be used at a later date.

“There’s some cafés suggesting they would then give you another 25 percent on that money down the line, so it could be an incentive to provide that cash they are missing right now. I’m thinking season tickets or merchandise.

“If cash flow is the main issue, it is a good way of plugging that gap in the short term.”