Stormy times for FA as COVID blights UK



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FA Wembley job cuts Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Though a mass vaccination program has picked up momentum in the United Kingdom (UK), the country is still being blighted by the coronavirus storm with the health services entering a “dangerous time” as deaths and cases hit record high.

As if the global coronavirus outbreak in March 2020 was not enough, the new virus strain has come as a double whammy for the country and has sent the United Kingdom into a national lockdown.

Like with other sports venue sector, at the receiving end is the English Football Association (FA) which is bleeding white with a lot of people getting the marching orders and FA suffering huge losses to the tune of around £300m (€327.4m/$369.1m) due to the pandemic.

The Football Association is the governing body of association football in England and the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. Formed in 1863, it is the oldest football association in the world and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the amateur and professional game in its territory.

The FA, which owns Wembley Stadium, has seen the events calendar for English football’s national stadium totally decimated by the global pandemic. The association recently stated that it now has a greater understanding of the “long-term and irreversible effect” of COVID-19 on its finances, and further stated that it anticipates many of its future revenue streams to be affected for a “considerable time”.

From an events perspective, Wembley was due to be the focal point of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Euro 2020, with the final, semi-finals, Round of 16 and group stage games taking place in London. But, with London now the ‘eye’ of the new virus strain storm, the rescheduled fixture will take place from June 11th to July 11th this year.

The Wembley Stadium had received another blow in the sense that the National Football League (NFL) of the United States also decided last year not to hold any games in the arena due to the coronavirus scenario.

Wembley Stadium is a football stadium in Wembley, London. It opened in 2007 on the site of the original Wembley Stadium, which was demolished from 2002 to 2003. The stadium hosts major football matches including home matches of the England national football team, and the FA Cup Final.

FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham stated, “The financial challenge we face is a significant one. We have lost all of the revenue from events at Wembley Stadium since March 2020 and all other future bookings, such as the music concerts which were supposed to be held in August 2020 and the NFL games in October 2020.”

Added Bullingham, “Our hospitality revenue from Wembley Stadium, which usually delivers around £35m per year, has completely fallen away and will probably take years to recover. In addition, many of our sponsors and broadcasters have been hugely impacted by the pandemic and, in turn, we are not able to deliver the content we are committed to. This result in pressure on us financially as in some cases we need to pay compensation, for example where events are canceled.”

Bullingham stated that the FA has “forensically analyzed” the budget of every division in order to identify the most suitable areas to make costs savings, adding the situation has worsened to such a point that it has been forced to reduce the size of the organization in order to deal with the financial impact of the crisis. The FA had last year removed 82 roles from the organization.

Dozens of coach educators, tutors and other staff based at St George’s Park (home of England’s national football teams) have departed at the end of the redundancy consultation process.

The coach mentor program, set up in 2015 to support volunteer coaches in understanding and applying the ethos of the England DNA to the grassroots youth game, was scrapped in July last year, with 300 part-time mentors and eight full-time staff losing their roles.

The FA declared in June last year it wanted to save £300m over four seasons in response to the downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Bullingham admitted to a shrinking of the FA’s responsibilities as it made “tough choices” to account for the collapse in income from sources such as £35m a year in Wembley Stadium hospitality. This decision of FA is also expected to hit grassroots football hard.

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