Coronavirus pandemic

Players' firm no to pay cut

The biggest clubs in England such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are paying all their staff, playing and non-playing, as per normal for now.
The biggest clubs in England such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are paying all their staff, playing and non-playing, as per normal for now.PHOTO: REUTERS

English footballers' union will agree only to wage deferrals, with more talks scheduled

LONDON • Talks between the English Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association over potential wage cuts or deferrals due to the coronavirus stoppage failed to reach an agreement on Wednesday night, the organisations said in a joint statement.

Senior representatives from the players' union (PFA), the top flight, the English Football League (EFL) and the League Managers Association discussed several issues arising from the pandemic and "constructive" talks are said to be continuing.

While the Premier League is in the second of a three-year broadcast deal worth £9.2 billion (S$15.6 billion), lower-tier sides get only a fraction of that, meaning that they are dependent on match-day revenue. With all football games on ice until April 30, that income stream has disappeared, leaving them extremely vulnerable and as such, the leagues want the PFA to carry some of that burden.

However, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has insisted that the union will consider only wage deferrals, and not pay cuts. The body sent an e-mail reminder to all its members, asking them not to sign any agreement with their clubs about wage cuts or deferrals without consulting the union.

The biggest clubs in England are, for now, shielded from the unprecedented challenges arising from Covid-19 - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City are paying all their staff, playing and non-playing, as per normal.

The same, however, cannot be said for some of the mid-table or bottom half teams.

Moves by Newcastle, Norwich and Bournemouth to use the UK government's furlough scheme - meaning public funds would be used to subsidise the wages of non-playing employees - has prompted some sharp criticism.

Tottenham's surprising decision to impose a 20 per cent wage reduction on 550 non-playing staff, while putting some of them on unpaid leave, has also been frowned upon.

This has led Conservative MP Julian Knight to threaten to impose a new tax on Premier League clubs who are seen to be abusing the system. In a letter yesterday addressed to its chief executive Richard Masters, he called the "two-tier system morally wrong", adding: "I am writing to express my dismay at the decision of certain clubs to furlough non-playing staff while continuing to pay players.

"The purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retentions Scheme is not to support the economics of Premier League clubs."

Brighton have decided not to request for aid, but their chief executive, Paul Barber, is not ruling out retrenchments.

"What we have to do is protect jobs," he told the BBC. "We're doing whatever we can to do that and that's the priority at the moment."

As such, Seagulls manager Graham Potter, members of the board and senior staff yesterday decided to voluntarily take "a significant pay cut" to protect jobs at the club.

A day earlier, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and other club officials were the first to voluntarily agree to pay cuts to help ease the financial pressure at the relegation-threatened side.

The Premier League will be holding its stakeholders' meeting today, with further talks over a possible wage deferral or a more drastic measure being scheduled.

The top flight's resumption date is likely to be pushed back today and also on the agenda will be the subject of player contracts.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'Players' firm no to pay cut'. Print Edition | Subscribe