City chief launches staunch defence for financial need of furlough scheme

Norwich City's sporting director Stuart Webber Picture: Tony Thrussell

Norwich City's sporting director Stuart Webber Picture: Tony Thrussell - Credit: Tony Thrussell

Sporting director Stuart Webber has strongly defended Norwich City’s decision to use the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to cover 80 percent of wages for furloughed staff.

The Canaries are preparing for a loss of between £18million and £35m for this season because of football’s shutdown, with uncertainty around when or if the Premier League season can be finished.

The wages saved on 200 non-playing staff during the shutdown has contributed towards saving £2.5m for the self-funded club, with senior staff sticking to their guns despite seeing wealthier clubs Liverpool, Tottenham and Bournemouth reverse their decision to use the scheme.

“When it came out it didn’t specify who can’t use it,” Webber said. “So football clubs are getting beaten up because they’re football clubs and they’re being used as dart boards – by the same people who will be crying for football to come back very soon.

“One of our mantras is ‘ignore the noise’ and this is a great example of ignoring the noise. Also, people will see what we pay in tax, whether that’s individuals, as a club or an organisation. So I think we do our part for the economy, in fairness, so again I think football clubs being beaten up for it is wrong.

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“What we won’t do is we won’t change just for a little public perception or just to be seen for doing that. We stick to our beliefs, we think we’ve done it for the right reasons for our business.”

MORE: Canaries pledge £200,000 to help those affected by the global pandemic

Webber pointed out that far wealthier organisations than the Canaries were using the scheme and also added: “We talk about mental health and talk about people’s wellbeing, and none more so than at a time like this, which is incredibly critical.

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“Now I look at it and think, if I’m a staff member and I genuinely cannot do my job, because I’m a masseur and I’ve been told I can’t do my job, by the government, no one’s fault, I’ve been told I cannot leave my house – let alone make physical contact with a player, which is what your job is. If I’m sat at home now, I am very concerned about my job.

“Going through furloughing, for that individual, at least gives them that comfort that there’s a bit of pressure being taken off.”

- See the links below for more on City’s financial situation, the potential of players having to defer wages and more on the use of the furlough scheme

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