Sometimes, football clubs listen. Not always, obviously: Spurs and Newcastle fans will not be holding their breath in waiting for their clubs to reverse their own decisions on using the British government’s furlough schemes to pay their workers during the coronavirus crisis. But sometimes they do, and Liverpool’s volte face on Monday should provide encouragement that if your club has messed up, you should tell them. Tell them loud, and tell them often. Because it just might work.
Liverpool’s decision to not take up the option of using the large pot of money set aside by the government to pay members of their non-playing staff, as they had initially intended to do while topping up their employees’ pay, is a welcome one but we should be cautious about dishing out too much praise. A little is due, perhaps, for them recognising their mistake – whatever their motivation, and it would admittedly be very naive to assume their motivation was altruistic and not just a PR consideration – but not too much. You don’t praise a burglar for putting your TV back.
But it’s a welcome step nonetheless for a club who sell themselves on being a community institution, and on Bill Shankly’s socialism. Club CEO Peter Moore said in a statement on Monday:
We have consulted with a range of key stakeholders as part of a process aimed at achieving the best possible outcome for all concerned. A range of possible scenarios were considered, including but not restricted to: applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays 80 per cent of salary and guaranteeing the 20 per cent payment; applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme with a guarantee to reimburse monies received at a later date; and, thirdly, finding an alternative means to cover our furlough costs.
It is as a direct result of this extensive consultation and our own internal deliberations at various levels throughout the club that we have opted to find alternative means despite our eligibility to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that.
Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period.
We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme.
Maybe they were shamed into it. Maybe they did the sums and realised the £500,000 or so a month they would receive from the government would be less than the PR damage it would do. Maybe their decision to reverse their initial conclusion was as cynical as the initial conclusion itself. But at this stage we probably shouldn’t care about their motivation, just that everyone is getting paid and an already overburdened state isn’t being burdened further.
The Manchester clubs get it right
There is a danger of this simply encouraging the sort of brainless tribalism that none of us need at the moment, but it is worth noting that Manchester United and City have been pretty spot on in how they have dealt with the delicate business of their employees at this strange time.
United followed City in announcing on Monday that they would not be using the government furlough scheme, and will pay all 900 of their non-playing staff in full, which is quite a commitment, and just because Liverpool deserved criticism for not doing this, that doesn’t mean we should avoid praising both Manchester clubs for doing the right thing.
United are expected to come up with ways that their staff can volunteer their time in local communities and with the NHS, while they’re not working at the club. City said on Monday: ‘We remain determined to protect our people, their jobs and our business while doing what we can to support our wider community.’
Elsewhere, England managers Gareth Southgate and Phil Neville are taking a 30% pay cuts, joining managers like Eddie Howe, Graham Potter and David Moyes in sacrificing portions of their wage.
Raddy Antic: 1948-2020
Raddy Antic, who passed away on Monday, was of course best known as a manager, the man who won the league in one of his three spells at Atletico Madrid in 1996, and who also was one of just two men to manage both Barcelona and Real Madrid, helping to bring through Victor Valdes and Andres Iniesta at the former, and Fernando Hierro and Luis Enrique at the latter.
But the role he played in one of the most dramatic moments of English football in the 1980s shouldn’t be forgotten either. You may well be familiar with David Pleat, tan suit and loafers flapping in the breeze, skipping flat-footedly across the pitch in celebration at Luton Town surviving on the final day of the 1982/83 season, but not quite so famous is why.
This was a true relegation shoot-out: whoever lost between Luton and Manchester City would be relegated, and it looked like things were going City’s way until, with five minutes to go, substitute Antic popped up with a volley to save them. Luton aren’t a particularly glamourous or frankly exciting club with a glittering past, but this was arguably their most significant single goal, and their fans will mourn the passing of the man who scored it.
Tactical fouls ruin the game. A swift counter-attack can be halted deliberately by a player without any interest in winning the ball. A yellow card is brandished, a free-kick from 35 yards is usually wasted and it remains 11 v 11.
Some will argue that it’s part of the game, that players effectively have two lives each time they step onto the pitch and are therefore entitled to scissor someone down. But does it make for a better spectacle? And more importantly, does any yellow card offence?
On this day in 2010, Manchester United are knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich, after Rafael was sent off and Arjen Robben scored a quite brilliant volley to clinch the tie. Robben’s goal came from a corner skimmed directly to him, left in space to line up the hit, so while brilliantly executed United knew exactly what was going to happen, it’s just they couldn’t stop it. Which is a neat encapsulation of Robben’s entire career, really.
McGuinness reflects the way recruitment has become globalised. He has worked on three continents. He was a senior scout for Celtic and played a part in the signing of Virgil van Dijk. He then served as senior player recruiter for Qatar. The quest to discover the next big thing, he can confirm, starts earlier and earlier. “You would never have seen the prices being paid for young kids a decade ago that you see these days with the influx of cash coming from television money, sponsorship deals and wealthy owners investing large sums,” McGuinness said. “Nowadays, kids are being headhunted and signing pro contracts before they have even started maturing.”
For the National, Rich Jolly writes about how statistics and analytics are taking over player recruitment, something that feels particularly relevant at the moment.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Ben Snowball. A hero? It’s really not for us to say.