The coronavirus pandemic is sending some football clubs to the wall, so should West Ham United fans be concerned?
It was only a month ago that West Ham’s under fire owners David Sullivan and David Gold revealed just how dependent the club is on staying in the Premier League and collecting the bumper TV rights money.
In fact West Ham described it as a ‘necessity’ after announcing £27million losses (BBC Sport).
Fast forward to the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak that has shut down all football until April 30th at the earliest.
Football in limbo amid coronavirus pandemic
And there is real concern that the Premier League may seriously struggle to safely fulfil the remaining nine games of the season.
West Ham have already made it abundantly clear their business model is propped up by the TV cash.
That is despite West Ham being named the 18th richest club in the world in the 2020 Deloitte Football Money League.
Fans see the irony and it is one of a litany of reasons they have been protesting against Sullivan, Gold and vice-chair Karren Brady this season.
West Ham would have to pay back TV money for unfinished season
Now an exclusive report from The Athletic claims clubs will have to pay back a whopping £762million over TV rights if games are not concluded, which is effectively a breach of contract.
Here is where West Ham’s big problem lies.
Sullivan is West Ham’s money man. According to The Sunday Times Rich List in 2019, Sullivan is worth £1.15bn. That made him the 133rd richest man in the UK.
But his worth is mostly tied up in an extensive property portfolio.
CoStar News recently claimed Sullivan is putting one of his flagship sites up for sale for £50million.
The Hammers chief gets £1.6million in rent per year from the Russell and Bromley store on Oxford Street.
But CoStar News said he has put it on the market.
A financial black hole that property-rich Sullivan couldn’t plug?
The trouble is with a global recession which is inevitable in the pandemic, property prices will undoubtedly plummet as will interest in buying them.
The TV money is likely already accounted for in West Ham’s spending. So Sullivan and Gold would have to suddenly find their portion of the refund over rights. That is estimated to be around £30million.
Take for example the claim that Sullivan and Gold would have to ‘inject tens of millions’ to plug a black hole in West Ham’s finances should they be relegated (Claret & Hugh).
The owners would reportedly have to front up that money. It is the same scenario facing them should the Premier League clubs fail to complete their fixtures.
Clearly there are a lot of variables at play.
But it would appear West Ham are walking a tightrope and they simply can’t afford to fall off one way or another.
It seems the only way to avoid that would be getting the games finished AND staying up.