(Reuters) - Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward says clubs will not spend “hundreds of millions” when signing new players in the transfer window as they will be mindful of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professional soccer in England has been suspended since March 13 due to the new coronavirus and many English clubs have seen a loss in revenue due to the stoppage, leading to non-playing staff being furloughed.
Woodward said it would be a challenging time in the market and it may not be “business as usual” for clubs, including United, when they look for new recruits.
“We need visibility of the impact across the whole industry, including timings of the transfer window and the wider financial picture, before we can talk about a return to normality,” Woodward said in a United fans forum on Friday.
“On this basis, I cannot help feeling that speculation around transfers of individual players for hundreds of millions of pounds this summer seems to ignore the realities that face the sport.”
Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen said earlier this week that free agents will be coveted more than others during the transfer window as clubs look to rebound from the financial crisis.
Woodward said he hoped the season could be completed with fifth-placed United pushing for Champions League qualification and still in contention in the Europa League and FA Cup.
A return to action in the Premier League is not expected until May at the earliest but Woodward said the first few games when the league resumes may be played without fans in attendance.
“While it may be that games need to be played behind closed doors in the shorter term, we all recognise that football will not be fully back to normal until supporters are once again in attendance,” Woodward added.
“We are pushing ahead with a series of initiatives to enhance the matchday experience at Old Trafford, including... the planned trial of rail seating, and the completion of our expanded state-of-the-art facilities for disabled supporters.
“These matters pale in comparison with the immediate priority of fighting coronavirus. But they give us things to look forward to when we are eventually allowed back to Old Trafford to watch football.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge