A respected football finance expert has urged Premier League clubs to rethink how they engage with fans over the next few months.
The 2019/20 season resumed on Wednesday with two games staged behind closed doors and the rest of the campaign will take place without supporters in attendance.
Although there have been tentative discussions regarding when fans could be allowed back into stadiums, nothing has been decided at the moment.
That opens up the prospect of at least some of next season being played in empty stadiums – something that could cost top flight clubs millions of pounds of income.
The situation is particularly worrying for Manchester United, with recent research by Betway showing that the club generated the highest amount of matchday revenue last season.
The Red Devils’ raked in £111m on matchdays in 2018/19, a figure that represents approximately 18 percent of their total turnover.
Arsenal were next on the list with £96m, while Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur pulled in £84m and £82 respectively.
Kieran Maguire, who authored ‘The Price of Football’, says it is vital that clubs across the league come up with a strategy to soften the blow of the potential loss of revenue.
“They will be trying to claw that back in some shape or form,” he said. “I think football might have to re-invent its relationship with fans in terms of its ability to offer an experience.
“Those clubs with good lines of communication to their fans will be successful, they will work hard to engage with them. The industry is big, but it’s got to innovate.”
More than 14.5m people attended top flight matches in England last season, with United’s 74,498 average topping the standings by some distance.
Total matchday revenues were worth £677m, highlighting how important fans are to the current Premier League set-up.
Although that figure works out at just 13 percent of the total turnover for all 20 clubs, it is a source of income that none of them can afford to write off.
With any competition only as strong as its weakest link, Maguire used Bournemouth’s situation to demonstrate the damage a long-term fan ban could have on the Premier League.
The Cherries’ £5m matchday revenue was the lowest in the division, but the University of Liverpool lecturer insists it is an invaluable source of income for the club.
“£5m is still £5m – over the course of a season for Bournemouth, the money from a matchday will pay for the wages of two players,” he added.
“You can’t keep on writing a cheque for £5m a month, even if you have got a decent amount of money in the bank to begin with.
“But Bournemouth lost £27m last season, so you add the loss of matchday income to that and it can only make the situation worse.”