English footballers go on the defensive in pay cut row
Premier League football players have said demands to take steep pay cuts would result in £200m less in taxes to the NHS, as part of an intensifying row about how to spread the financial losses faced by the sport from suspension of fixtures during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Professional Footballers’ Union, the players’ trade body led by chief executive Gordon Taylor, has so far resisted calls by the Premier League for elite players to take 30 per cent reduction in wages. Last week, health secretary Matt Hancock also called top footballers to “take a cut and play their part”.
Following the latest round of crisis talks this weekend with the Premier League and the English Football League, which runs the three professional divisions below, the PFA released a statement.
“The proposed 30 per cent salary deduction over a 12-month period equates to over £500m in wage reductions and a loss in tax contributions of over £200m to the government,” it said. “What effect does this loss of earning to the government mean for the NHS? Was this considered in the Premier League proposal and did the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock factor this in when asking players to take a salary cut?”
On Saturday, league leaders Liverpool became the latest side to announce it will use the UK government’s furlough scheme to fund the wages of non-playing staff, without having first agreed cuts with their high-earning footballers.
The PFA has also been critical of moves by other Premier League clubs also owned by billionaires, such as Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, for using the taxpayer-backed scheme.
Outside the PFA-led talks, players at teams such as Manchester United, the highest earning club in the country, are in active discussions over waiving a portion of their salaries or making donations to charitable causes, according to people familiar with the talks.
Last week footballers at other leading European clubs agreed temporary wage reductions. Spain’s Barcelona agreed to cuts of 70 per cent, Germany’s Bayern Munich 20 per cent, while at Juventus in Italy, players have waived their salaries for four months.
The PFA has said its members are “expecting to contribute financially to any solutions agreed upon” but wants to protect vulnerable players, particularly those in the lower leagues, where wages are substantially less, as well as those working on short-term contracts that are due to end in June.
Executives at lower-league clubs have warned that without financial assistance and drastic cost-cutting measures, some are likely to go bust within weeks. The PFA has called for an agreement that would support these teams, adding: “Football needs to find a way to increase funding to the EFL and non-league clubs in the long-term.”