Premier League clubs are expected to start negotiating pay cuts on an individual basis with their players after a collective agreement with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) fell through. The PFA rejected the Premier League’s appeal for players to cut 30% of their wages arguing the pay cuts would lead to a £200m tax deficit and directly impact the National Health Services in the UK.
Even though there is still hope for the proposal with talks carrying on through this week, many clubs have felt the pinch of cancellations and income sheets drying up. The early movers have already taken measures to furlough staff members of the club. These include Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.
Of the trio, Tottenham and Newcastle have been known to have stingy owners and chairmans who have over the course of the last decade provoked a lot of ire in the community and fan base. Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has often used his ownership of Newcastle as a means to promote his sporting goods line.
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The surprise in this set therefore are Liverpool, a club that had over the course of the last season -- one where they won the Champions League -- was praised often for giving back to its working class community. They are also listed as the seventh richest club in the world. The runaway Premier League leaders showed an increased turnover of £533m and made a pre-tax profit of £42m in 2018-19.
Understandably their decision to furlough around 200 non-playing staff, at this critical junture, provoked criticism from all parts of the world.
In a cruel paradox, Manchester City, the club perhaps most easily associated with single ownership, capitalist economic structures, has become the first Premier League club to state that they will not seek to use the government job retention scheme and furlough the staff during the shutdown.
"We can confirm, following a decision by the Chairman (Khaldoon Al Mubarak) and Board last week, that Manchester City will not be utilising the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme," a spokesperson said.
"We remain determined to protect our people, their jobs and our business whilst at the same time doing what we can to support our wider community at this most challenging time for everybody."
This has left all the other clubs to decide their positions on their own. There is a widespread possibility that they will be forced to conduct direct negotiations with their own players in order to draw out a conclusion.
This has caused frustration on both the sides. Health secretary Matt Hancock’s comment last week that footballers “should play their part” has clearly not gone down well. The players have hit back saying they are willing to do everything they are asked for as long as they know where the money actually goes.
Former England Captain, Wayne Rooney has criticised the British government and the Premier Leagues for placing players in a dilemma over proposed pay cuts. “If the government approached me to help support nurses financially or buy ventilators I'd be proud to do so -- as long as I knew where the money was going," he wrote in a statement.
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He added: "I'm in a place where I could give something up. Not every footballer is in the same position. Yet suddenly the whole profession has been put on the spot with a demand for 30 percent pay cuts across the board. Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats? How the past few days have played out is a disgrace.” On an individual basis several players have contributed in different ways to help their home countries or the UK deal with the crisis.
The fact that several clubs agreed to slash staff wages even before talks about the pay cut were completed has come as a real surprise. Most players believe that non-playing staff have been treated unfairly by some of the world’s wealthiest clubs.
Clubs themselves are irked by the fact that they are not being taken seriously by the PFA and the Coronavirus pandemic has put them in an economically compromised position.The Premier League faces a financial penalty of more than £750m if the season, and broadcasters will demand a refund on games. Consequently broadcast revenue that clubs earn will be slashed. They are also likely to suffer if games are played behind closed doors -- season ticket holders will seek similar refunds. With serious doubts remaining about the completion this season, player contracts - especially for those whose contracts expire in June -- are another serious concern, especially for clubs on low budgets, targeted during the transfer market.