This is an interesting announcement from the FA, EPL and EFL that gives us some new information.
The commitment to complete the season was expected.
But the strength of that commitment is extremely strong. To the point where there are hints that they prefer to finish this season rather than start the next one on time.
Whilst it doesn’t contradict the UEFA statement on finishing domestic leagues by June 30th, it certainly strikes a more cautious tone. I would say a more realistic tone.
Gone is the fantasy of restarting on 3rd April – it will now be 30 April at the earliest which feels a bit more realistic but still heavily depends on what happens with the virus.
And the extension of the deadline for the end of the season hints that A) UEFA’s wish to finish by the end of June is over optimistic, and B) We can potentially expect the season to start and then conclude anytime between June to August or even into September.
Overall there is a sense of uncertainty here from the FA, EPL and EFL. Lots of language like “competitions have an increased opportunity to be played” rather than “can be played”.
Like everyone else, they are feeling their way as they go here and at least this statement feels more honest and realistic than UEFA’s did.
Can we do anything with this?
We are yet to hear from the other leagues formally but I would imagine we are going to see similar from them. This Marca interview with the LaLiga president indicates all leagues are planning to resume in May:
It could be before as he says, I would not be willing to bet on that. The EPL have said 30th April at the earliest and I think that is more realistic.
So, it is now very likely that we have a media window of at least 6 weeks ahead.
We may have a fixture calendar running from April 30th ideally to the end of June but potentially to August or even September.
We can put next seasons kick off in August now firmly in doubt. But crucially, this is not the feared disaster scenario because the expectation will be that there will be a 20/21 season even if it starts later and runs later next year.
This is a very manageable overall scenario for Football Index and us as traders. If they are willing to shift next season back, they have bought themselves a fair bit of wiggle room in the timetable.
I think this averts any potential short term panic. This plan runs into the buffers if we get 2-3 weeks down the line and it’s clear football doesn’t have a chance of restarting on April 30th. Until then, I think we have more breathing room.
The Positive Scenario
Short term, we see some moves towards media players to take advantage of this 6 weeks+ of media on offer. This may be muted as I think many will still be feeling nervous. But with double media on offer, things may settle down and certainly the players winning consistent media recently and in the coming days should be having a good time.
That might continue for 2-3 weeks. I’d expect spreads to stay broadly on lockdown during that time. That’s the risk here – getting into these big media players can be rewarded heavily but also comes at the risk of being locked into them by these very large spreads.
As we get into April we’ll be watching closely for signs of whether the games are actually going to go ahead. If things look good, we should see a return towards performance players then. If the games do start progressing well without problems, I’d expect an even bigger push into them.
And that push could be very sustained – we will have an enormous fixture calendar ahead with very few breaks with one season likely to flow very quickly into the next with Euro 2021 now waiting at the end too.
This does however make hype transfers less important. Transfers that are of interest because the players is expected to do well at the destination club should do fine.
But it won’t be without turbulence – in the middle of all this we will have dividend changes, possibly performance changes, and all the usual changes to teams through transfers/tactics etc etc. We can’t just assume the current crop of strong performance players will still be the best in a few months time – they won’t be.
But overall, if this plans comes off and football finds a way to play even with coronavirus live – I’d expect Football Index life to return to something resembling normal.
The Negative Scenario
I think we’ll still see that move towards media players shorter term, possibly a bit muted because of the large spreads.
If however we get 2-3 weeks out from now and find that it is extremely unlikely games are going to continue in May you can see people starting to drift away from performance players, even if they have to eat up 50% spreads to do it.
It’s probably likely that by then we’ll know more and there will be a fixture calendar even if we can’t start it until June or even July. But I’d still expect the extended worry to start to weigh on some traders.
This could get a bit messy if it looks like games can’t start in May – we may start to doubt whether football can continue whilst corona is live and that could be 12-18 months realistically.
That is the scenario where we start to wonder whether we are going to be 6-8 months without football and that’s the scenario we want to avoid.
At the moment, I think something closer to the Positive scenario looks more likely. The football authorities have bought themselves time and with so much at stake I don’t think they will be lacking in willpower or financial muscle to make things happen.
The statement that this season will be given as long as needed to finish and hint that next season’s start date may get flexible makes me more confident than I have felt all week. It removes that hard deadline and buys some time which is really important.
The “Big media” strategy I have not been keen on is looking a bit more viable today, with that 6 weeks of media ahead.
But I still have reservations, chiefly, I am reluctant to push into very expensive and popular players at a time when these spreads make them extremely difficult to get out of. We are still in a period where things could change very quickly and I prefer to maintain flexibility.
Still, there is no doubt that with double dividends in play those who own some big media players are likely to do well in the next few weeks.
I would limit this to any big media players that are already owned and if making any new buys make sure they are ones you are happy with for the long haul, you may be effectively locked into them for at least 4-6 months.
I don’t see a particular need to rush to buy any performance players right now, I think confidence is still going to be low for a little while.
I’m a bit more confident than I was this morning but in terms of actual actions, I think sticking with what we have and maintaining that flexibility with some cash in the balance is the optimal play right now.
The wildcard here is FI’s reaction.
They have promised an announcement once the leagues gave some clarity and we now have it, or at least as much as we’re getting for a while.
For 6 weeks ahead, I think FI are more than likely to see media as the answer and may double down on this to see FI through. This could mean extending the dividends by paying more places (a top 5 or even 10) to bring more players into it. That makes transfer speculation players more appealing.
They may do something for performance but it is difficult to think of anything you can practically do. Performance players should hold up ok as long as some football by May looks possible.
They should start to rise in anticipation of games naturally anyway, provided we get some more reassurance in the coming weeks and start feeling confident that games will resume on April 30th.
I’ll be back with more when something new happens, hopefully an announcement from FI fairly soon.