So far we have not seen a huge market reaction to the potential disruption Coronavirus may cause.
We’ve seen some games postponed and others played behind closed doors. But behind closed doors games don’t matter to us at all from an FI perspective. Postponed ones do but as long as they are rescheduled it’s much of a muchness.
I suppose the first thing to say is thank Christ we invested in a sensible, safe haven product like the Football Index and not some fly by night fad like the FTSE100.
Joking aside, the real stockmarkets have taken a beating. Can we expect the same on FI if there is heavy disruption to the football schedule?
I think my overall thought would be that we can’t afford either panic or complacency.
I’m not a scientist or a doctor. I don’t know how this will all shake out. I’m not sure anyone really does. By background, before I was able to live my best life writing about football, I am a project/risk manager for large projects so I do have some experience with planning for uncertainty.
But from here out I’d best be clear that this is just my personal interpretation of what is going on – it’s a very hard to predict situation and I’m not any better qualified than anyone to judge how the virus might progress!
What is most at risk?
There has been talk of domestic seasons being left unfinished, of Liverpool not even winning the title. Relegation/promotion not happening (sorry Leeds fans). Champions/Europa Leagues not going ahead. Euro 2020 cancelled.
This all seems like fairly doomsday stuff.
Let’s consider for a moment if all that happened. It would be bad. No doubt there would be a hit to the market, not always evenly distributed across players some would be hit worse than others. But is it a crushing blow that hurts FI permanently?
Probably not. I think FI would trundle on. Media would still exist. After the initial shock people will want to be preparing again for next season.
That’s an important point to nail down early – it seems unlikely this will be a permanent thing without the sporting authorities coming up with a way to keep the show on the road like playing behind closed doors.
To my mind, domestic league football and the Champions League and Europa League are probably the most likely competitions to continue.
There are huge sums of money involved to the associations and the clubs, and Government’s are reluctant to crash economies. I think the authorities would take every possible step to avoid cancelling the competitions entirely.
I can foresee a temporary suspension for weeks or even a month. But why would they cancel things entirely when playing games behind closed doors is an option? As long as that happens it doesn’t impact on FI at all.
Euro 2020 and the upcoming friendlies feel more high risk. It’s particularly unfortunate that it is hosted all across Europe this time. The idea of giving people a reason to travel back and forth across the continent all summer does not seem like a good one as things stand.
Yes, you could play it behind closed doors. But for an international tournament? Could you stop fans travelling (who already have tickets) to sit outside and find bars etc?
You could apply that to the Champions League too and that may be the case. That tournament is already underway though and there are far fewer games to manage so finishing up behind closed doors seems a bit more likely.
I think Euro 2020 is very dependant on how the virus spreads. If it is not getting under control in a month or two’s time it could be in trouble. If things clear up, it may well go ahead as normal. And we have no idea what will happen there.
Who could actually benefit?
If Euro 2020 is cancelled I think it is media players, particularly those with possible EPL or very big European club Summer transfers who benefit.
Whilst we have been preparing for Summer transfers now (quite rightly), a point which comes into play later on is that Euro 2020 was actually severely narrowing the window in which transfer players were likely to get any media.
During the tournament, the footballing world would be focused on that, with stories and deals postponed until after the tournament.
If Euro 2020 is off, that window gets much bigger so transfer stories will likely hit earlier and have a longer period in which to hog the media.
What could we actually do?
I think a good response would be to tighten up a bit on Euro 2020 particularly where it is the primary reason for the value a player has.
And we can be a bit more optimistic (I was already) about players with a good performance/trend fit where they have a good transfer prospect to the EPL or a major European club where they will be expected to do well.
This requires careful judgement on a player by player basis. Think surgical scalpal, not chainsaw.
In most cases what I call “full season fit” players have more than just the Euro’s going for them. They are good domestically too and generally have more than one way to win with them be that a transfer or just longer term dividend potential.
Indeed, that’s part of the underlying reasons I use this approach – I rarely buy a player who relies on one specific thing for their value. When you have a player who has multiple positive factors and real value in long term dividend prospects you are always in a safer position if something unexpected happens.
Because there is no single answer for what to do and it depends on the player, I’ll discuss some examples of popular players and how I might deal with them.
This is more to explain my overall approach rather than the individuals though.
Let’s start with Werner. High price, and expected to play for Germany so losing Euro 2020 would certainly be bad for him. However, he also has a transfer prospect, and it’s a good one with EPL being mentioned.
This sort of cancels each other out. If Euro 2020 is shut down, that’s bad. But, he may have a longer window in which to pick up transfer gossip which is good.
And, he’s got solid performance credentials for the rest of the season and is still in Europe. So overall, not too worried here.
Then we could look at players like Gnabry, Griezmann or De Bruyne. All big players for big international teams, so losing Euro 2020 would be a blow. Gnabry and De Bruyne have no real transfer prospect. Griezmann, oddly, does have a slight one despite being recently signed.
Gnabry and De Bruyne looking strong and both look good for a deep CL run right now where they will be a strong contender for Gold Day wins.
Griezmann also has the CL, and would be a contender for Gold Day wins too. But, one of his major draws is how great he is for France in performance scoring.
These are the sort of players that can give us headaches, they have lots of positives but losing Euro 2020 would be an issue.
There is no obvious right answer here. I can see it being very easy to regret selling these players. And just as easy to wish we had. The outcome pretty much depends on Euro 2020 going ahead or not, and that’s not something we can at all control or even make a guess at.
Worries about Euro 2020 being cancelled make these players more dependant on good CL progress – knockout prospects become more troublesome than before.
Bruno Fernandes. Euro 2020 is a minor feather in his cap – if he’s going to hold his value and go higher it will be for domestic performance and media strength in general so Euro 2020 is not a huge worry here.
Fabian Ruiz. One of the “combo players” I talk about who have both a big transfer prospect and Euro 2020 inclusion. Especially at his beat down price this feels straightforward – if Euro 2020 disappears his main draw is the big transfer anyway. Similar for van de Beek, Moussa Dembelé.
Obviously, players who aren’t at Euro 2020 anyway don’t have much to worry about! Someone like Pedrinho, Paulinho, or Leon Bailey who are cheaper longer term holds with transfers in mind don’t seem particularly vulnerable.
I would also delay further going for cheaper punt players who would be there entirely for Euro 2020. This is the “Bulgarian Messi” type who would not normally be of interest but could be a half decent player for a smaller team at the Euro’s. It has been a bit early to go for these anyway, I think there is now good reason to hold off even longer.
The above are just some examples. It’s not really about the individuals, more about the sort of things that are worth thinking about.
Going through our portfolios and considering how strong a factor Euro 2020 is for our players would seem a sensible move to me right now.
If they are very heavily reliant on Euro 2020 and don’t have many other reasons to hold them at the price then we may want to tighten up on them a bit.
The more other factors they have going outside of Euro 2020, including long term performance strength, particularly where it is an off pitch reason like a transfer, the better in my view.
Overall though, I’m not that stressed. These things happen from time to time and we have to be able to deal with it calmly and rationally.
Looking over the majority of players that generally get good Scouting reviews, the tendency to find players with multiple reasons propping up their value pays off in times of uncertainty and means you aren’t far away from the right place if something unexpected happens.
And, one of the reasons I stick with quality rather than the overhyped garbage that gets peddled is for just such an occasion. Players who have genuine and longer term value will just hold up better if the market ever struggles.
This is the exact moment you don’t want to be caught out holding a portfolio full of social media pumped rubbish.
I think there are some sensible tweaks that can be made to manage the risks here and even make the most of transfer opportunities (as we were doing anyway). But I don’t think it should be dominating our trading just yet – all the usual Key Strategy things to think about are still there.
I’ll monitor this going forward. I suspect this won’t be the last time I talk about Coronavirus!