(Reuters) - Manchester United MANU.N said its priority was to allow fans to return to its Old Trafford stadium safely after the impact of the coronavirus crisis pushed it to an annual net loss of 23.2 million pounds ($30.3 million).
The pandemic has played havoc with the sporting calendar, forcing the suspension of English Premier League fixtures for three months, with fans still unable to attend matches.
Lost revenues due to the restrictions amounted to 70 million pounds in the year to the end of June, the club said, adding that it would recoup 30 million pounds in broadcast revenue for 2019-20 fixtures that had been played only in July and August.
The latest COVID-19 restrictions across Britain are likely to further delay the return of supporters, depriving clubs of income from matchday ticket and catering sales.
Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward called for a consistent approach from the authorities on the admission of fans, noting that people could travel on planes or sit in cinemas.
“Crowds have been permitted to return to varying degrees in over 20 European countries, albeit with significant capacity restrictions to allow for social distancing, and we urge the UK government to follow these positive examples as soon as it is safe to do so,” Woodward said.
Woodward also dismissed reports that the club was part of a plot to form a breakaway European Super League, saying the focus was on talks with UEFA over the future of the Champions League.
United’s revenue in the year fell 19% to 509 million pounds, the lowest since 2015.
The club, controlled by the American Glazer family since a highly-leveraged takeover in 2005, extended its contract with shirt sponsor Chevrolet, which was due to expire in June 2021, by six months because of disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Woodward defended United’s player recruitment and compared it with rivals such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG who he said had taken a cautious approach.
The 20-time English champions signed players including midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax and Paris St Germain (PSG) striker Edinson Cavani on a free transfer, during the transfer window.
United marked their return to the European Champions League with a win against last year’s finalists PSG on Tuesday.
Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong and Chris Peters in Bengaluru, editing by Louise Heavens/Keith Weir
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