Jurgen Locadia
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Brighton, Cincinnati prepare to discuss Locadia’s future

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Jurgen Locadia’s big MLS transfer has not gone as planned, through no fault of his, FC Cincinnati’s, or parent club Brighton and Hove Albion.

Locadia’s loan to Cincinnati was sealed Feb. 3, giving him just under five months to decide whether he had interesting in staying in the U.S. for the next part of his career.

The 26-year-old got all of two matches to feel it out, scoring once before MLS shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The extremely small sample size has been kind to Locadia, who says that his agent had spoken to Brighton and that he’s open to making the move permanent. That’s a loaded statement given the money it might take to acquire a player who was Brighton’s transfer record signing just over a year ago.

“I like it here so far in Cincinnati and the league also,” Locadia told The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com: “I talk with my agent also and he said at the end of the day it’s my decision, and I told him I’m happy here, so if we can figure something out with Brighton and Cincinnati, which I understand is going to be difficult, we can try and fix the situation.”

FCC general manager Gerard Nijkamp said he’ll be talking with Brighton in the next few days, but that the situation is a massive challenge. Imagine the questions: What does Brighton want? When can the player move? Has the end of the loan window changed at all? And what reinforcements will Brighton be able to buy given the wildly unusual conclusion to this season (and their possible relegation)?

Locadia was also asked what he likes about MLS.

“I think here in the States, the fans enjoy the game more and in Europe I get the feeling that people are more judge-y about the game,” Locadia said. “Here in the States, they come to enjoy the game and see the players and drink beer. And in Europe it’s more like, we need to win and they’re gonna judge you. They don’t like when you play the ball back to the goalkeeper.”

Well, maybe wait on that one. There might be a bit more patience in Cincinnati given it’s their second year in MLS, but other clubs have plenty of fans amped up for victory.

Fear grips Swedish soccer as virus delays start of season

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Saturday was supposed to mark the beginning of a new soccer season in Sweden, fuelled by the prospect of big broadcasting revenues from a new domestic TV deal and expectations of another tight title race to match last year’s dramatic finale.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Then, in two months’ time, Sweden’s national team was supposed to be playing in the European Championship, with confidence high two years after a run to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 1994.

Instead, the rapidly spreading coronavirus has forced a two-month delay to the Allsvenskan campaign – the “early June” start date will now be viewed as optimistic by many – the cancellation of the Euros, and led to some Swedish clubs fearing they might soon go out of business.

A bleak picture is being painted by members of Sweden’s top league, the starkest coming this week from Helsingborg.

“The truth is,” the southern club’s president, Krister Azelius, said, “that the effects of the coronavirus have hit us so hard that we have to question our future existence.”

While a big debate has recently broken out in England about the extent to which players should be giving up some of their wages during the pandemic, many of their Swedish counterparts on much lower salaries have already been put on leave and/or received pay cuts.

A suspension of the league beyond June doesn’t really bear thinking about.

“It’s a worry – this is not just a ‘press pause’ situation,” Kevin Walker, a midfielder for defending champion Djurgarden, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

“The clubs were looking at pretty good times ahead, where we are getting in more money and we could attract better players. Swedish football was on the rise … hopefully as soon as this storm passes, we can get going again.”

Walker said Djurgarden was actually in good shape to withstand the initial brunt of this crisis, because of last year’s title triumph and having sold captain Marcus Danielson to Chinese club Dalian for a reported fee of more than 50 million kronor ($4.8 million) in February.

Indeed, the biggest blow to the Stockholm-based club might come in a sporting sense. Djurgarden, domestic champion for the first time since 2005 after beating Malmo and Hammarby to the title

They were supposed to be competing in the Champions League qualifying rounds this summer for the chance to reach the glamorous and lucrative group stage, thereby earning a minimum 165 million kronor ($16.2 million) plus a share of TV money. Now there’s uncertainty when those matches will take place.

For Djurgarden’s rivals across Sweden, the pain is very much financial.

Elfsborg’s players and coaches have had to take pay cuts. AIK, IFK Gothenburg, Ostersund, Orebro, Hacken, Kalmar and IFK Norrkoping have implemented short-term leave while Malmo has laid off staff.

All this at a time when Swedish clubs should really be feeling the rewards of the first year of a six-year TV deal with Discovery-owned Eurosport, reportedly worth 540 million kronor ($52 million) per year – supposedly doubling the amount clubs were bringing in from the last broadcast deal.

Now, the clubs are getting advance payment of this sponsorship money just to survive during what Swedish Elite Football – the body that oversees the top divisions – has described as an “extraordinary and difficult situation.”

Azelius has calculated that even if the season begins in June, Helsingborg will still have lost 17 million kronor ($1.6 million) of equity and therefore have gone back into the red. Having that debt, in turn, leaves the club in danger of losing its elite license to play in Allsvenskan.

“Many clubs are on their knees,” said Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist, a defender for Helsingborg, “waiting for news from various quarters about what help they can get.”

Sweden might be in a better position to restart than other countries in Europe, even if that means playing in empty stadiums to begin with.

On the continent and beyond, so much so that clubs can now hold training matches – provided the number of people attending does not exceed 50.

Walker said he and his teammates have been back in training since Monday, making sure they are “well-prepared for when the season does kick back in.”

A June start will necessitate the season running into December for the first time, by which time many parts of Sweden – like Ostersund, the northernmost team in Allsvenskan – are usually under snow. The fact that many teams have synthetic pitches because of the country’s climate could be a savior in that regard, while Djurgarden’s Tele2 Arena has a sliding roof and can therefore stage games “indoors.”

Until then, players, clubs and fans can only wait, keeping their fingers crossed that play does resume on schedule.

“When this clears up,” said Walker, trying to stay positive, “there will be a massive demand to go to see sports live, to go out and get back our normal routines.

“You just see the emptiness without sports. It’s unbelievable.”

Premier League to restart ‘when safe,’ will financially assist lower league clubs

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The Premier League issued a statement Friday morning confirming the league has suspended play indefinitely, returning to action “only…when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”

The statement comes in the wake of a meeting between Premier League leadership and all 20 clubs to discuss various points of interest during the coronavirus shutdown. A date for return has not yet been set, with the league saying amid a fluid situation, “the restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

“The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution. With this, there is a combined objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played, enabling us to maintain the integrity of each competition. However, any return to play will only be with the full support of Government and when medical guidance allows.”

The league also confirmed it will financially assist lower league clubs during the shutdown, committing $153 million towards that will “immediately deal with the impact of falling cash flow.”

“The League unanimously voted to advance funds…to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time,” the statement read.

The Premier League also announced $24.5 million of aid would be sent to the National Health Service that would go “to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The League, clubs, players and managers express huge appreciation for the heroic efforts of NHS staff and all other key workers who are carrying out critical jobs in such difficult circumstances,” the statement read.

Finally, the Premier League announced it will enter into discussions with players about the possibility of “conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration.” The league announced it will meet tomorrow to discuss the matter further.

Brighton’s Potter joins Howe in taking voluntary pay cut

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Brighton and Hove Albion boss Graham Potter has joined club chief executive Paul Barber and technical director Dan Ashworth in taking a voluntary pay cut for the next three months.

The trio said the decision was made to support chairman Tony Bloom’s “significant efforts to protect all jobs at our club and charity.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Clubs all over the world have been furloughing workers if not laying them off altogether as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on club finances.

On Thursday, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. The clubs were also together in a prior initiative to reward medical workers.

Here’s Potter, via  BrightonandHoveAlbion.com:

“I spoke with Tony Bloom a couple of weeks ago, and I just felt like a normal thing to offer him because he has been good to me. I know the pressure he is under as a chairman and the challenges he faces. It is a small thing we can do but I think it was an important offer.

“Tony being Tony said, ‘Thank you very much but, at the moment we are working through things.’ As things have moved forward, I think we have come to the right decision to do what we have done.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola donated $1 million to fight coronavirus in Catalonia. Whether donations or pay cuts, surely more will come.

Latest PL update following meeting with EFL, PFA

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The Premier League, English Football League and Professional Footballers’s Association released a joint-statement following a meeting between the three sides held on Friday.

[ MORE: Friday’s transfer rumor roundup | Thursday | Wednesday ]

Notably, it was revealed that the four leagues in question — the PL and three Football League competitions — will not resume until April 30 at the earliest. The goal of the meeting was to “mitigate the economic impact of the current suspension of professional football in England” and set in place a plan for how the leagues, which feed clubs to one another through promotion and relegation, can remain in lockstep as they transition from one season to the next.

The full statement can be read below:

The Premier League, EFL and PFA met today and discussed the growing seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was stressed that the thoughts of all three organizations continue to be with everyone affected by the virus.

The Premier League, EFL and PFA agreed that difficult decisions will have to be taken in order to mitigate the economic impact of the current suspension of professional football in England and agreed to work together to arrive at shared solutions.

The leagues will not recommence until April 30 at the earliest. They will only do so when it is safe and conditions allow.

Further meetings will take place next week with a view to formulating a joint plan to deal with the difficult circumstances facing the leagues, their clubs, players, staff and fans.