WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
At the time of writing three Premier League clubs (Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Bournemouth, Norwich City and Liverpool) have taken up the government policy of furloughing staff.
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WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Furloughing is a temporary leave of absence for employees due to the special needs of employer or employee, and is being used to describe a policy introduced by the British government in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. Simply put, the government will help employers, particularly small businesses, to support their employees as business slows down during the crisis.
Here is a statement from the government’s official website on the policy.
"If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’.
"Your employer could pay 80% of your wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, up to a monthly cap of £2,500.
"You’ll still be paid by your employer and pay taxes from your income. You cannot undertake work for your employer while on furlough."
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THAT SOUNDS GOOD!
It is good, because it means that a lot of people won’t lose their jobs during this crisis; of course, more can be done but that is a discussion for another day.
HOW DOES IT THIS RELATE TO FOOTBALL THEN?
Well, as we mentioned earlier, five Premier League clubs have told their non-playing staff to apply for the scheme.
WAIT. NON-PLAYING STAFF?
Yes, that’s right, all five clubs will continue to pay their players and management teams in full during this period.
You’re right to be sceptical; Premier League clubs are amongst the richest in the world and a lot of the players are paid in the millions per year, yet there has been no pay-cut announced for them yet.
In his statement announcing the decision, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy highlighted the examples set across Europe, with Bayern Munich and Juventus players high-profile examples of squads taking pay-cuts.
Of course Levy’s surely heartfelt plea would probably land better were it not for the fact that it was recently announced that his own salary as the highest-paid Premier League executive had jumped up to £7 million per year, including a £3 million bonus for the opening of Tottenham’s new stadium, which as a reminder was eight months late and over budget.
THAT DOESN’T SEEM RIGHT.
It certainly doesn’t sit well when you consider how much some of the top executives, coaching staff and players at these clubs earn.
It certainly doesn’t sit well when you consider how big a PR push these clubs are trying to put out about how much they’re helping the community.
And it certainly doesn’t sit well when you consider how this scheme was initially designed to help small businesses who are at risk of going bankrupt, not cash-rich football clubs who are constantly announcing record profits.
SO IS THIS THE PLAYERS’ FAULT?
Not really. Most of them have done some pretty amazing stuff during this time. The problem is that there are plenty of examples where managers and clubs appear to have taken the initiative and done the right thing, Leeds United as an example.
So ideally you want other high-profile figures to take note and follow suit, but it’s trickier because there’s no obvious body who should take the lead on this.
Really it should be a club-wide decision that gets orchestrated by the Premier League but with no clear leader there is a vacuum of morality, not for the first time in football during this crisis.
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