07.04.2020

Practice Areas: Sports Law

COVID-19 and the extraordinary measures taken by Portuguese Football

When Leicester became English champion in 2016, the EY Group estimated that the achievement of the football club had a direct 140 million Pound impact on the local economy. Now, picture the other way around, the impact of the global pandemic? The new coronavirus engaged in the competition and quickly left the adversaries behind. It was necessary to play in defence and this meant abandoning the fields indefinitely, with devastating effects for the survival of the clubs, sports clubs and their employees.

The Portuguese Football Federation suspended all professional leagues on March 12, 2020, indefinitely. It also recommended that all group practice be suspended and normal sporting activity restricted, in order to tighten restraining measures and be an example to society by raising citizen and supporter awareness.

Millimetric offside discussions of manager tactics have been dominated by the cross-cutting topic: what measures should be adopted to minimize the impact of the current pandemic, to cope with empty stadiums, to make up for absence of television revenues and decrease in merchandising?

On March 20, the Portuguese Football Federation approved exceptional and temporary response measures to tackle the current epidemiological circumstances, including the suspension of procedural acts by applying the judicial vacations arrangement until the exceptional situation terminates, which also covers administrative and disciplinary procedures, and the suspension of payment deadlines for ongoing procedural fees and fines.

The Portugal League announced on March 13 that a Steering Group on the Economic Impacts of Professional Football would be set up, to provide support to sports clubs on more sensitive issues, including the wage control of each club. A Cash support line of up to twenty thousand euros per Sports Club was also adopted to help manage short-term cash requirements and some eligible expenses. The Standing Committee, with representatives of the Executive Board of the Portugal League and the National Association of Football Physicians (AMEF), still meets regularly to adopt and implement new measures.

Insurance companies have also adopted exceptional distancing measures, with effects on the reduction of insurance premiums, during the period of isolation or quarantine of professional players. Banks have also adopted measures, including the elimination of minimum fees charged to traders for payments by ATM.

These measures should therefore be combined with the Government measures concerning financial incentives, tax measures, one-off assistance for the preservation of employment and mitigating corporate crises, including the layoff arrangement, the creation of credit lines for supporting cash requirements of companies, aid and support delivered directly to workers who have fallen ill with Covid-19 and are in prophylactic isolation, among other measures that are being adopted by the sovereign bodies.

 

This crisis has no borders and European bodies such as UEFA are expected to implement measures soon to deal with the suspension of the professional leagues.

The new coronavirus is not only impacting football players and clubs; thousands of jobs in the industry are estimated to be at risk today. Not only. As Andy Bradley, the manager of the English team Sunderland, stated in a Netflix documentary called Sunderland ’Til I Die”, “When morale’s high, people spend – but when it’s low they don’t”. There is big money at stake… But there is something more important than money and that’s life.