Premier League players could face 30% pay drop if season doesn’t restart

Measures would involve cuts or deferrals or both; top-flight teams agree €142m for lower-tier clubs

Conservative MP Julian Knight described top players being paid in full while non-playing staff lose some of their wages on furlough as “an obscene situation”. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Conservative MP Julian Knight described top players being paid in full while non-playing staff lose some of their wages on furlough as “an obscene situation”. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

 

Top-flight players may ultimately be asked to take a 30 per cent drop in their annual pay, via wage cuts, deferrals or both, the Premier League’s 20 clubs agreed at a meeting on Friday to consider football’s response to the financial crisis caused by its suspension during the coronavirus pandemic.

The league also announced that it will accelerate £125 million (€142 million)due to the EFL and National League, although a large portion of that is parachute payments to individual clubs previously relegated from the top flight, not for distribution to stricken smaller clubs.

A £20 million (€22.7 million) contribution is also going to be made, the league said in its statement, “to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 pandemic”. That will include a direct contribution to the NHS and more money for clubs’ own community outreach programmes.

The decisions followed an intense week of meetings between the Premier League, EFL and the Professional Footballers’ Association, as well as discussions between the 20 club captains, in a climate of increasing criticism of players for not having taken pay cuts, including by the UK health secretary, Matt Hancock.

Separately, players themselves are discussing how best to make substantial donations to the NHS, which was aired in a meeting between the captains of all 20 clubs, in which Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson was a significant influence. There is some frustration within football at Hancock – who made a connection between Premier League players “playing their part” by taking a pay cut and NHS doctors and nurses who have died treating Covid-19 patients – and other politicians who have made footballers a target of criticism during the crisis.

That was largely the result of the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, this week announcing that Spurs’ non-playing staff had taken a 20 per cent pay cut and been placed on the government’s furlough scheme, which pays laid-off people 80 per cent of their salary up to a maximum £2,500 (€2,840) per month, while agreements had not yet been reached with players or the PFA.

Clubs will not ask players to take a 30 per cent cut in their annual wage immediately; the figure is understood to be the total for a worst-case scenario, equating to the Premier League clubs themselves losing that amount of their annual revenues if the season cannot be finished. The clubs have already lost significant income for the matches which have not been played, and have effectively ground to a halt.

However, the clubs have not yet lost the £750 million(€850 million) TV income covering the remaining matches, and restated their determination to get the season finished “with the full support of government and when medical guidance allows”.

With the league having assessed its potential losses for different possible outcomes, the 30 per cent is understood to be made up of 10 per cent potentially lost in matchday income and 20 per cent from broadcasters, if the season is not finished.

In its statement, the Premier League said: “In the face of substantial and continuing losses for the 2019-20 season since the suspension of matches began, and to protect employment throughout the professional game, Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30% of total annual remuneration.”

Further talks on the issue are due to be held on Saturday involving the PFA, Premier League, players and club representatives. The PFA and its long-serving chief executive, Gordon Taylor, have been holding to the line that in principle they want to discuss only the deferral of wages rather than actual cuts, and for clubs to show the union the detailed financial evidence to justify the savings required.

On Thursday the union said in a statement that it objected to clubs putting non-playing staff on furlough if they could afford to pay them, but suggested that players’ wages could be used to pay staff if that was genuinely necessary.

The Premier League has been seeking to impress on Taylor all week the haemorrhaging of money clubs are experiencing and could be facing if the season is not completed, or, even if it is, in the scenario of matches having to be played behind closed doors. In Levy’s announcement, he emphasised that Spurs, like all clubs, have no revenues during the suspension.

The League Managers’ Association also made a statement saying that “the vast majority of clubs, particularly in the EFL, are already utilising the government’s scheme . . . furloughing staff where there is no work available.” The LMA said that managers and coaches had also agreed, “on a club by club basis . . . furloughs, cuts and deferrals.”

The Premier League confirmed that matches will not resume, as previously hoped, at the beginning of May, and the FA said in a statement that the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will not do so either. – Guardian

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