The Professional Footballers’ Association has indicated that Premier League players may be willing to pay the wages for non-playing staff members if clubs exhibit a genuine need to do so owing to the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This decision and statement has come almost a week after Championship leaders Leeds United opened the doors for equanimity by refusing to lay off backroom staff and instead seek to fulfil their payments by deferring those of players. Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa, his players, senior coaching staff and club executives accepted a wage deferral in order to protect the jobs and incomes of 272 less well remunerated members of the club’s backroom staff and its army of casual workers on 25th of March. Many clubs were expected to follow suit, but have dragged their heels in response.
Now finally, with elite footballers clearly facing public criticism, clubs from the Premier League are prepared to meet Matt Hancock, the UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Conservative MP Julian Knight via video conference to discuss players' pay cut.
Hancock has questioned whether players should take pay cuts instead of putting the non-playing staff on the government’s furlough scheme which pays 80% of employees wages up to maximum £2,500 per month.
A number of Premier League clubs -- which include Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, NewCastle United, Bournemouth the Scottish champions Celtic -- face severe backlash after they planned on asking the government to pay furloughed staff wages as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme rather than pull them out of the cub’s cash reserves or player wages.
Hancock’s statement highlighted the hypocrisy of the situation.“Given the sacrifices that many people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS who have made the ultimate sacrifice of going to work and have caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part,” he said.
Also Read | Covid-19 Crisis: Wimbledon 2020 Cancelled, Other Events Soon to Follow
Criticism for Hancock’s statements from across the football community have stemmed from the fact that many feel players have not been taken into confidence at all about these decisions. Many insist that clubs are taking these deicisons without consulting players and management.
In a statement, the Premier League and EFL, the PFA said: “The players we have spoken to recognise that the non-playing staff are a vital part of their club and they do not want to see club staff furloughed unfairly. Any use of the government’s support schemes without genuine financial need is detrimental to the wider society.”
The statement also makes clear that PFA will recommend players defer a portion of their wages if required and pay it to their non-playing colleagues but the union does not want to agree to blanket pay cuts, especially if it actually ends up supporting shareholders’ interests rather than staff.
“In instances where clubs have the resources to pay all staff, the benefit of players paying non-playing staff salaries will only serve the business of the club’s shareholders,” the statement further said.
The statement has also accused “multiple” clubs in the EFL of putting their players, including those not hugely well paid and on 12-month contracts, under ‘significant pressure’ to sign documents rapidly agreeing to changing their contracts and agreeing pay cuts.
“We understand the severity of the situation and the challenges that clubs from all divisions face,” the statement said. “We have requested, via the leagues, that clubs provide us with information about their financial position, so that we can make informed decisions for the future – both immediate and long-term.”
The union also said that when it does agree on any solutions, it will be prepared to contribute from its own considerable reserves to support the financial sustainability of football and its clubs.
Also Read | NIS Patiala Flouts Lockdown Protocol; Hungarian Swimming Registers Nine Positive Cases of Covid-19
Similar situations have also erupted in leagues across Europe. In the most high profile case of FC Barcelona and their players have come to an agreement to take a 70 per cent pay cut to help support non-playing staff earlier this week. The Barcelona board had earlier claimed to have been in negotiations with players about the percentage of wage cuts and made it seem like they had hit a roadblock. Which is when the players took matters into their own hands, Lionel Messi announcing the wage cut via his Instagram account. Messi also used the opportunity to criticise the board and their innate desire to create a rift between the players and the fans. Messi and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola also made donations worth €1 million to help overburdened healthcare systems in Barcelona and Argentina.
Read more sports stories from Newsclick