Daar waar de KNVB zich krampachtig vasthoudt aan een mogelijk scenario waarin het seizoen 19/20 wordt uitgespeeld na 30 juni, roept Fortuna Sittard-voorzitter Işıtan Gün de KNVB op dat scenario te laten varen. Zo’n scenario creëert namelijk meer problemen dan dat het oplost. Gün stelt voor het seizoen 19/20 niet meer uit te spelen en schetst een oplossing voor de sportieve en financiële consequenties van die optie in een open brief.

We plaatsen die brief hier integraal.

A Proposal for the Season Finale in Dutch Competitions

The level of uncertainty that coronavirus brought into football is unprecedented. All competitions are frozen, with no possibility to come with potential solutions since the health concerns are ongoing, and unfortunately in several countries, even growing.

As we get closer to the ultimate season end date of June 30, alarm bells are wailing louder and louder. After Prime Minister Rutte’s announcement on March 31 that there will be no professional football in the Netherlands until June 1, even without public, there is no clarity about what will happen next.

At an increasing pace, we are reading more and more superficial solutions from the Big-5 leagues and the UEFA to finish the season. The purpose and reasoning of proposed solutions are understandable, but not realistic. The rhetoric “we must finish the season at whatever cost” may be widely accepted or sound logical, but it is simply incorrect. No, we do not have to finish the season at whatever cost, at all. Trying to save the current season at the expense of also distorting the next season does not make any sense.

We can instead come up with a sensible and fair solution in which everyone involved takes a fair amount of the overall cost and start already planning in advance for a fresh start to the upcoming 2020/21 season. Of course, no solution will please everybody involved, but at least a solution set with underlying principles can be found and applied.

Having said that, I would like to propose a specific solution regarding the Eredivisie and KKD seasons.

1. We all know that the underlying reason for the argument “finishing the season is a must” is driven by financial concerns.

To be more specific, clubs, leagues and football associations are all (rightly) afraid that in case the season is called off prematurely, sponsors and broadcasters will be legally entitled to claim for their investments. In the case of Dutch leagues, the amounts in question are as follows:

Estimated Revenues, EUR million
2019/2020 estimate* Matchday Broadcast Sponsor
Eredivisie 109 81 198
KKD 14 11 41
Total 123 91 239

* estimate based on 2018/19 season actual results, inflated at 5%. Merchandising, Food & Beverage and UEFA competition revenues are excluded as they fall outside the scope of this article.

2. Since there are 8 remaining rounds in Eredivisie and 9 rounds in the KKD, we can say that 1/4 of the season is yet to be completed.

In other words, if we call the season off today, the losses would be:

Potential Losses, EUR million
Matchday Broadcast Sponsor
Loss 31 23 60
Incurred by/Claimant Clubs Broadcasters Sponsors

3. Proposed solution

Based on the above, I propose the following measures:

  • Clubs absorb the loss of matchday revenues that they would have earned during the remaining rounds of Eredivisie or KKD.
  • Broadcaster agrees to a 25% haircut. In other words, they will be entitled to claim EUR 17 million for the incomplete part of the season.
  • However, the Broadcaster does not claim the EUR 17 million back from the leagues/clubs in cash. Instead, they pay EUR 5 million less per year for the upcoming 4 seasons, therefore get reimbursed for their loss from the uncompleted 2019/20 season.
  • Sponsors also take a 25% haircut. In other words, they will be entitled to claim EUR 45 million for the incomplete part of the season.
  • For those sponsors who claim their money back, an emergency fund (up to EUR 45 million) is set up, from which the sponsors are reimbursed. Each club commits to pay back 100% of the amount reimbursed on its behalf from future sponsorship contracts until the amounts are paid back in full. This can be, for example, 5% of each sponsorship contract starting from next season.
  • We declare that the 2019/20 season is void.
  • No champions or relegations are applied in the Eredivisie.
  • From the KKD, 2 teams promote to Eredivisie based on the current ranking. Therefore, the 2020/21 Eredivisie season is played with 20 teams, instead of the regular 18.
  • On the top of the ranking table, no team is declared as champions.
  • UEFA participation is decided based on the current rankings. However, all revenues from the UEFA competitions earned by Dutch teams in the 2020/21 season are divided among the clubs that had a chance to participate in these competitions. This will not satisfy some of the clubs, but it will also signal a very strong solidarity from the football community to the public and the world in these extraordinary times.
  • Public health concerns permitting, we start the 2020/21 as planned.

All in all, we know that solution to any problem should not have more variables than the number of variables within the problem that we are trying to solve.

Therefore, it makes infinitely more sense to solve the “season finale” problem that we are facing with a construction as above, than trying to carry over the situation beyond June 30, which will have circumstances that no one can predict.

Furthermore, any formula that goes beyond June 30 would introduce a vast number of new and complex problems, including but not limited to termination date of players’ contracts, compensation of loan players by the loaning or loanee clubs, options or obligations to purchase players, transfer windows, and so on.

Of course, we must recognize that while a solution as proposed above could work for the Dutch leagues, it may not work or be applicable in other leagues where the amounts concerned are way higher or the existing conditions are much different.

It is imperative that each domestic league explores and finds its own workable solution; but we should all acknowledge an underlying principle: that there is no need to damage the upcoming season in the name of saving the current season given the uncertainty posed by the coronavirus situation all around the world.

Işıtan Gün

Amsterdam, 1/4/2020