Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has reassured club investors that the return of the Premier League is near.
Football has been suspended in England since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, although Premier League clubs are now in negotiations over Project Restart having been allowed to return to training, abiding by social distancing guidelines.
The pandemic has had an impact on the finances of clubs at all levels, and Manchester United are not immune to the effects, with Woodward describing the current situation as one of the most testing times the club has ever faced.
However, he presented a promising message about the prospects of an imminent return to action, having seen the Bundesliga in Germany get back up and running behind closed doors in recetn weeks.
Woodward said: “We are optimistic it will soon be possible to resume playing football and our men’s first team has commenced a phased return to training this week with rigorous medical protocols in place to manage risk.
“Subject to government and Premier League shareholder approval, with input from medical staff and players, we anticipate domestic games could restart in June.
“Furthermore, all indications from UEFA are that the culmination of the Europa League could be during August.
“We remain in constant dialogue with the Premier League, the FA and UEFA about the next steps towards returning to playing while continuing to protect the health of our players, staff and wider public.
“We are encouraged by the return of the German Bundesliga, the first major European league to restart last weekend, with the successful completion of nine matches all behind closed doors.”
According to Manchester United’s chief financial officer, Cliff Baty, the Covid-19 pandemic has cost the club around £23m until the end of March.
Woodward explained that the dip in club revenues, seeing a soaring 42.2% rise in debt to £429.1m as of the third financial quarter, was understandable given the circumstances.
The club’s absence from the Champions League has also contributed to their decreasing financial performance, but Woodward insisted that the club are “resilient” enough to navigate these questioning times.
“Manchester United is a resilient club and a resilient company,” he said.
“We’re well-positioned, both operationally and financially, to navigate this global crisis and we very much look forward to returning to play and building upon the strong on-pitch momentum we experienced up to mid-March when we stopped.
“Our results reflect the partial impact the pandemic has had on the club. While clearly the greater impact will be in the current quarter and likely beyond.
“We remain firmly optimistic for 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.
“There are still profound challenges ahead for football as a whole and it is safe to say it will not be business as usual for some time. Our club is built on solid foundations, we remain one of the most popular teams and one of the most followed and we have created a strong financial base.
“However, the repercussions of the pandemic are now being felt widely across the footballing community. Not just by clubs but by players, broadcasters, sponsors and many other stakeholders.
“We have a shared interest in protecting our sport during this period. It’s crucial we work together in a period of solidarity to maximise our chances of coming back strongly when the pandemic recedes.
“We must recognise that this pandemic will not disappear overnight and the world which is emerging will be different to how it was before.
“That will create challenges for football, like many other industries, but also brings an opportunity for innovation and creativity as we explore options for resuming football in ways that still protect public health.”