Morals, money and football - where does the sport go next?
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Is football being singled out for treatment over its approach to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic? Chris Lakey looks at where the sport stands
Football finds itself stuck in a moral dilemma.
The effects of the coronavirus is that millions of people are out of work, either temporarily or permanently – and that includes footballers.
But while hardship and belt-tightening are commonplace, there is a growing feeling that those who earn an awful lot of money should be giving something back. And it’s footballers who are in the eye of that storm. As an example, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told BBC Radio 5 Live this week that Premier League players should be the ones to “carry the burden”.
“My view is always that those who are the least well-off should get the most help,” he said.
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Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, condemned Premier League clubs who have furloughed non-playing staff – which includes Norwich City.
“It sticks in the throat,” said Knight. “This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its centre.”
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Furloughing is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme whereby the government will pay staff placed on furlough - temporary leave - 80pc of their wages, to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
Again, football clubs and footballers in the spotlight. Not other people who also earn vast amounts of money. Not the leaders of business who pour millions into political parties’ funds each year.
The example is always football.
So where does the sport stand at the moment?
The Premier League and the EFL are in talks with the players’ union, the PFA, over salaries. They want pay cuts not just deferrals. Football rules require players’ contracts to be paid in full and the PFA say only deferrals of wages will be considered. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the PFA represents more players outside of the top flight, who do not earn fortunes.
What is the public reaction?
A YouGov poll showed that 92pc of British people believe Premier League players should accept a pay cut during, and 67pc believe the cut should be at least a halving of their salary.
What about the agents?
They will say contracts must be respected - but it will be pointed out that this is an extraordinary and unprecedented situation.
When can we expect a decision?
The leagues and PFA were due to have another video conference call on Thursday and the Premier League has a meeting with its clubs on Friday.
Who’s done what so far?
Norwich have just announced that players and management staff have donated around £200,000 to charitable organisations. City, Bournemouth, Tottenham and Newcastle have put non-playing staff on furlough. City have said they will make up the 20pc salary shortfall. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, chief executive Neill Blake, technical director Richard Hughes and assistant manager Jason Tindall have taken “significant, voluntary pay cuts”. A number of EFL clubs have furloughed staff. Leeds players have volunteered to take a wage deferral. In Europe, players at Barcelona have taken a 70pc pay cut while Juventus players and manager Maurizio Sarri have agreed to freeze their pay for four months.
What about TV money?
If the remaining matches do go ahead, broadcasters will not pay the leagues any extra money for showing them. Sky and BT Sport are also facing financial problems with no live sport and subscribers unable to afford fees. They may ask for a rebate. The Premier League want to resume in May to ensure they keep within £3bn a year deal with the broadcasters – which expires on July 31.
If the cut-off date of July 16 is not met, Sky Sports, BT Sport and the international rights-holders could demand rebates totalling as much as £762 million.
Why is that May date important for clubs?
That’s when they are due to receive their final chunk of TV money for the season – much needed to pay players’ wages. That £762m figure of combined income under threat is not divided equally and ranges from £57m for the Premier League winners to £20m for the team who finish bottom.
What happens with the rest of the season?
Football is currently suspended until April 30 at the earliest. Clearly, it will not resume the next day. Postponing the summer European Championship has freed up some space if the season resumes in some form or another. Many clubs want it to because not every issue is cut and dried: promotion and relegation as well as Champions League qualification. Should it resume it will avoid having to annul the season and then decide on those issues without actually kicking a ball, and that is most definitely not going to please everyone – do you stick with league positions as they are or do you calculate on points per game?
The integrity of the game is under threat... in so many ways.