Watch: Season stoppage will dismantle the football industry

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For the past three weeks, the debate over ending the 2019-20 Premier League season next month has dominated the agenda of local football circles. Vice-president of FC Valletta Alexandre fenech told Valhmor Camilleri that if the BOV Premier League were to be discontinued this month it would have serious repercussions for the future of Maltese football ….

Right now, ten of the top 14 clubs are constantly asking the local football governing body to end the season now while Valletta, Birkirkara and Gżira United desperately want the championship to be decided on the pitch.

This week, the Maltese federation announced that a final decision on the return of football next month will be taken at the association’s executive committee meeting on May 18.

Click the link above to listen to the full interview with Valletta Vice President Alexander Fenech

During the meeting, MFA President Bjorn Vassallo informed the clubs that the local governing body had sent a letter to the Superintendent of Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci, which included a medical protocol that will be implemented once the association will have received the green light to resume its activities. competitions.

Talk to Malta timetablesAlexander Fenech reiterated his club’s stance of wanting the season to end on the pitch and said he was encouraged by the increased efforts of the Maltese Federation to ensure the season continues.

“I was very satisfied with the more proactive attitude adopted by the Maltese Federation so that football can resume,” Fenech said.

“I applauded this MFA effort because I always said we need to do more than just send a letter asking if football can continue or not. The response we always received was’ at the moment we don’t know. not ”and this is obvious because it is difficult for them to answer clearly“ yes ”or“ no. ”Thus, all the clubs involved welcomed the new approach of the Maltese Federation and the more positive type of communication with the superintendent of health. “

“Do we want football to resume in Malta now? If it’s a “no” today, it means a “no” for a restart in October and December “– Alexandre Fenech

When asked if the fact that the COVID-19 situation in Malta is continually improving makes them more positive about the resumption of football next month, Fenech said: “I think the situation in Malta, thanks to the efforts of health authorities, is as good as it can be until an approved treatment or vaccine is made available to the public.

“As a pharmacist, I don’t see any change in the environment by December.

“We have a clear choice in front of us. Do we want football to resume in Malta now? If it’s a “no” today, that means a “no” for a reboot in October and December.

“Such a decision would mean that we accept the dismantling of the football industry in Malta.

“This industry does not make a profit for Valletta FC, Hibernians or Gudja, to name a few, but it does leave income for hundreds of people, whether they are players, technical staff and staff employed by the Maltese Federation on match day, which amounts to approximately over 500 people.

“If we say ‘no’ it means that in a year and a half clubs will have to go to their players and technical staff who have a full-time contract and inform them that their industry is over, like a business that has closed. its doors and their contracts are terminated. I’m sure no one wants this.

“This is why we argue that if the situation remains under control as it is and we have medical experts, who are authoritative in the sports medicine scene, who have drawn up a medical protocol to keep everyone safe. , let’s keep playing.

“Because if we are not going to play now, I want to make it clear that Valletta FC will not start the season in October.”

The sustainability of clubs during a football season relies mainly on sponsorship agreements with private companies.

Fenech said if the season ends early, he doesn’t see how football clubs can approach their sponsors and ask them to extend their help at a time when the majority of businesses are struggling due to the effects of the pandemic. COVID-19.

“Maltese football depends on a number of individuals who love their club and put their own money into the club,” he said.

“Then there are the sponsors who invest in football clubs every year.

“If we take a sponsor that has for example a two-year contract with Valletta, we have now lost six months, so the income from this agreement will not be paid during this period because we have to extend the contract until the season next to provide it with the agreed exposure.

“On top of that, it should be borne in mind that this pandemic has severely affected businesses in the hospitality sector where many people support Maltese football.

“Do you think when next season rolls around someone will even think about approaching these companies for a new sponsor?

“The reality is that Maltese football has been living in a bubble for many years and it had to be this virus to burst it. Football has been surviving beyond its means for many years and I believe the time has come to reform the funding system for Maltese clubs.

“If we are not going to play soon we will give Maltese football another death blow.”

The 2020-21 season in Malta is expected to start later than usual as the MFA plans to launch competitions in October to ensure that clubs arrive for their European commitments in better conditions, and thus be more competitive.

Fenech says the only way for Maltese clubs to overcome this pandemic is to introduce new ways to help clubs generate income.

“Football has survived beyond its means for many years and I believe the time has come to reform the funding system for Maltese clubs”– Alexandre Fenech

“When you are involved in a football club, your priority is to see your team perform in the best possible way,” said the vice-president of Valletta FC.

“You end up getting caught up in unforeseen commitments and you spend not only all your income but so much more because you want your team to be the best.

“In my opinion, the Sports Facilities Marketing Act is an essential way to help clubs generate more income. At present, clubs face many obstacles in implementing it in their organization, but it can provide valuable leeway for clubs to make the most of their strengths.

“When it comes to TV rights in Malta, it may be true that attendance at our stadiums is still decreasing, but when you look at the statistics for local football programs on TV, you realize that there are has a large audience, so people follow Maltese football.

“Last year I found out that for the league decision maker between Valletta and Hibernians, the cable TV companies in Malta had 70,000 digital set-top boxes tuned to the game, which is no joke. However, concrete initiatives to maximize the potential of Maltese football are not present here.

“Abroad, clubs make money from broadcast rights and match days.

“Our club, thanks to the efforts of our supporters, manages to make a small profit on match days, but it is not about to reach a state where you can finance your club with your income. This is where you have to look. “

Fenech said the only way forward is to create new sources of income for our clubs and that European football is the best medium.

“Going from round to round in UEFA club competitions is the best possible way for our clubs to increase their income,” said Fenech.

“When our president said he wanted his team to go through several qualifying rounds, there were people who laughed at him.

“But in reality, it is the benchmark for us. Because if you qualify you get more money from UEFA and then you can reinvest those funds in your team to attract better players and that’s half that you raise the level of football.

“In Europe, there are several teams that are an example. When we played against Azerbaijan Qarabag they had a budget of 16 million euros, today they doubled it, the same goes for Bate Borisov who started with three to four million and they increased.

“But we have to create a sustainable model and every club has to be sustainable.

“One thing that can be done is to turn every club in the Premier League into a limited liability company so that whoever runs them has the responsibility for ensuring the club’s long-term viability.

“Maybe a bank guarantee is created, but before all of that we need to help clubs monetize their assets.”

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