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Manchester United executive: Coronavirus will affect transfer spending

Speculation about moving players for hundreds of millions of dollars in the summer ignores the financial realities the sport faces, Ed Woodward says.

Manchester United vice chairman Ed Woodward has told fans there will be reduced spending on players as the entire soccer industry deals with the financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

English Premier League games have not been played for more than six weeks, and stadiums are due to be closed to fans when the season resumes in June at the earliest.

It could be several months before social distancing restrictions are eased to allow fans back into games, dealing a significant financial blow to United, owned by the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs. United generated more than $68 million in game-day revenue in the first half of the season.

The financial impacts will affect the money available to spend on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad.

“Nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of challenge facing everyone in football, and it may not be ‘business as usual’ for any clubs, including ourselves, in the transfer market this summer,” Woodward said in a conference call with 12 fan representatives Friday.

“As ever, our priority is the success of the team, but 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.”

The summer transfer window usually runs through July and August, but the season will stretch beyond June 30 if it can resume, impacting when deals will be allowed.

One of the biggest pieces of transfer speculation during the lockdown period without live sports has been over whether United can sign Tottenham striker Harry Kane. Without naming Kane, Woodward alluded to reports of a potential deal worth about $250 million.

“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,” Woodward said.

United is paying its staff in full, while most players at Premier League rival Arsenal are taking a 12.5 percent salary cut, and the Southampton and West Ham squads are deferring pay.

“Of course, everyone is grappling with the economic realities of the pandemic, and we are no different,” Woodward said. “So the longer the crisis continues, the greater the impact will be for every club, including ourselves.”

United generated about $376 million in revenue in the first six months of the financial year to Dec. 31, 2019, with half coming from global sponsorship deals.

“We have always believed that our commercial model gives us greater resilience than most clubs,” Woodward said, “and we are grateful for the enduring support of our commercial partners in helping us achieve that.”

United is fifth in the Premier League with nine games remaining, three points behind Chelsea in the fourth Champions League qualification place.