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MLB sees debt rise to US$8.3 billion after Covid-19 disruption

Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs have together accumulated a debt of US$8.3 billion as a result of a disrupted season due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to league commissioner Rob Manfred.

The 2020 MLB season suffered significantly, having to be shortened to just 60 games as opposed to the regular 162-game season, leading to the accruement of the eye-watering debt.

Operational losses are thought to currently sit at US$3 billion so far, with total losses expected to rise as the pandemic continues to be problematic across the sporting sector.

Games were played behind closed doors throughout the season; however, the World Series saw up to 11,500 fans attend games having been staged in a bio-secure bubble. Clubs rely on gate receipts for the majority of their revenue, making this the prominent factor for such high-level operational losses.

Speaking to Sportico, Manfred said: “We are going to be at historic high levels of debt and it’s going to be difficult for the industry to weather another year where we don’t have fans in the ballpark and have other limitations on how much we can’t play and how we can play.

“I think the one thing we’ve learned is that Covid is a really unpredictable virus. We don’t know what’s next. But at this point it’s just impossible to speculate what next year’s going to look like. We’ll just have to get closer and then we’ll make the best decisions we can.”

The financial strain that MLB clubs are facing could lead to further difficulties down the line for both players and clubs. Hundreds of players are expected to become free agents if not offered another contract. With the uncertainty surrounding revenues and costs, club executives may be hesitant in renewing deals for its players.

“The economic losses [this season] have been devastating for the industry,” Manfred continued.

“You’re seeing the ramifications of that in terms of decisions clubs are making with respect to [laying off] baseball operations and business employees. I mean, you’ve never seen those type of decisions, at least since I’ve been around.

“In order to get through the year the clubs did a great job preserving liquidity, but they also took on a lot of additional debt.”

Elsewhere, the National Football League (NFL) has suffered an additional US$3 billion debt itself, totalling the leagues debt to $10 billion in total.

The World Series reached its conclusion last night (October 26) with the LA Dodgers winning the competition for the first time in 32 years, having beaten the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to secure a 4-2 victory.

Author: Jake Wilkin