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Woodward talks of 'testing' struggle as United income is hit

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Chief Executive of Manchester United Ed Woodward. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Chief Executive of Manchester United Ed Woodward. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

PA

Chief Executive of Manchester United Ed Woodward. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Ed Woodward has warned that Manchester United are facing "one of the most extraordinary and testing periods" in the club's 142-year history, but expressed confidence that the Premier League season will restart next month despite the "profound" challenges ahead.

United announced yesterday that turnover for the first three months of the year had dropped by £28.4 million, with £23m of this sharp revenue drop blamed specifically on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Woodward, United's executive vice-chairman, admitted that there would be deeper financial pain to come as broadcast and matchday revenues take a further hit and he called on all the game's stakeholders, including the players, to come together to protect the sport's future.

United are braced for a £20m rebate to television companies and additional drops in matchday income following the postponement of games and an acceptance that matches will have to be played behind closed doors upon their return. The club also confirmed on Thursday that their usual money-spinning pre-season tour has been cancelled this summer.

"Our third-quarter results published today reflect a partial impact that the pandemic has had on the club, while the greater impact will be in the current quarter and likely beyond," Woodward said.

"There are still profound challenges ahead, and for football as a whole, and it is safe to say it will not be 'business as usual' for some time.

"The repercussions of the pandemic are now being felt widely across the football community, not just by clubs, but also by players, supporters, broadcasters, sponsors and many other stakeholders.

"We have a shared interest in protecting our sport during this period so it's crucial that we work together in a spirit of solidarity to maximise our chances of coming back strongly.

"We must recognise that this crisis will not disappear overnight and that the world which emerges will be different from how it was before. That will create challenges for football, like many other industries, but it also brings an opportunity for innovation and creativity as we explore options for resuming football in ways that still protect public health.

"We remain firmly optimistic about the long-term prospects for the club and for our exciting, young team once we have worked our way through what is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary and testing periods in the 142-year history of Manchester United.

"This club is built on resilience in the face of adversity and those qualities are being proven once again now."

United returned to training this week as part of the crucial first phase of Project Restart and Woodward, encouraged by the Bundesliga's return to action at the weekend, is optimistic the Premier League can recommence in June, and Europa League and Champions League knockout matches conclude in August. United hold a 5-0 advantage over LASK from the first leg of their Europa League Round of 16 tie.

"While it is too soon to know with any certainty if, or when, these measures can fully be relaxed, we are optimistic that it will soon be possible to resume playing football," Woodward said.

"Subject to government and Premier League shareholder approval, including input from medical staff and players, we anticipate domestic games could restart again in June. All indications from Uefa are that the culmination of the Europa League could be during August.

"While no one in the football industry enjoys seeing football without fans in the stadiums, the TV audiences attracted to the German matches demonstrates the strong pent-up demand for live football after a two-month absence."