Football

United benches 2020 forecast, as coronavirus puts football on hold

Manchester United on Thursday (May 21) abandoned their annual financial targets and reported a second consecutive drop in quarterly core earnings and revenue, after the Covid-19 pandemic brought the English Premier League to a halt.

Football fans around the world have been deprived of “live” action for two months, with most professional leagues suspended to try to contain the spread of the virus.

Premier League clubs have scrambled to save cash, with some forced to furlough staff. Players are now back in training with the hope that matches can take place behind closed doors from next month.

“Operationally, the impact of the pandemic and measures to prevent further spread continue to disrupt... businesses in a number of ways, most significantly in broadcasting and matchday operations,” United said in a statement.

The English giants, who are in “rebuild” mode as they chase a return to the lucrative Uefa Champions League competition, saw broadcasting revenue more than halve in the third quarter ended March 31, while matchday revenue fell eight per cent.

As a result, total revenue slid 19 per cent to £123.7 million (S$214.4m), while core profit tumbled 32 per cent to £27.9m.

Net debt ballooned by more than £127m to £429m and the club, controlled by the American Glazer family, made a net loss of £22.8m once the cost of financing that burden were taken into account.

United have not played since they beat LASK Linz 5-0 in a Europa League Round of 16, first leg in Austria on March 12, a match played behind closed doors. Their last match at Old Trafford was a 2-0 win over local rivals Manchester City in the EPL on March 8.

United were in fifth place in the EPL, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, when their season was halted. – REUTERS

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