How English Football Is Handling The COVID-19 Situation: The Selfish and The Selfless
During drastic times such as these, cutthroat decisions have to be made for the well being of others. When it comes to most Premier League clubs, that decision comes at the expense of the non-player. The common man. With the suspension of the Premier League (a reminder that they were deadset on continuing even after the NBA suspended its season until Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with COVID-19), revenue was going to become a problem. No television money, ticket sales, nothing. This results in a “conundrum.” Do the clubs continue to pay their high wage players at their full price or continue to fully pay their lower-income non-playing staff, potentially saving their livelihood? It seems obvious on what they should do but the true nature of certain clubs takes precedent in this scenario.
With the U.K furlough scheme in effect, the government will pay 80% of furloughed workers’ wages up to a max of £2,500 a month. Many clubs are beginning to use and abuse this much to the disappointment of fans and politicians. Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur were the first two clubs to announce this, by furloughing non-playing staff that aren’t first team managers and keeping their players on full wages.
Both Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have come under major scrutiny for this, and rightfully so. Leaving their lower-income non-playing staff to be saved by taxpayers rather than the owners and players is flat out disgraceful. Especially in the case of Tottenham, as they are the eighth wealthiest club in the world while Daniel Levy ranks as the highest-earning club executive. Frankly, it’s ridiculous that Levy went down this path knowing how bountiful Tottenham are. Companies who use this furlough law are in a nearly inescapable position. Tottenham is far from being in trouble.
As for Newcastle, this isn’t the first time Ashley put himself ahead of his workers. Despite the U.K lockdown, he ordered his Sports Direct workers to show up as normal rather than paying them away from work and away from any danger. Seen as a gambler and a selfish man, it doesn’t help that he’s seen as a crap owner by his fans due to poor player recruitment and lack of investment in the club. Newcastle is in back and forth talks in regards to a £300m take over by Yasir Al-Rumayyan and the Saudi fund, so this shows where Ashley’s and Newcastle’s mind is right now.
Norwich City and Bournemouth have followed suit in using the U.K furlough scheme. Bournemouth did go an extra step further in the form of first-team manager Eddie Howe, who became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. They’re also planning to fill in the rest of the 20% wages. But the fact their owner decided furlough staff and is still paying players full wage is a very sour point to this charitable act. Brighton and Hove Albion are planning on retaining and paying their staff fully but things could change at any time. With these clubs leaving many of their workers in financial limbo while leaving players in a very comfortable position, many have seen the Premier League as operating in a “moral vacuum”, and they are. High wage players and owners need to shoulder a good chunk of this burden, as they have the financial flexibility to do so. But with the option to have taxpayers do all the heavy lifting, it seems an easy yet selfish choice for clubs to secure stability as they lose money due to the Premier League suspension.
“It sticks in the throat. This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its centre.” — Julian Knight
Meanwhile in the Championship, multiple clubs have shown their leadership during these times. Birmingham City was the first Championship club to ask players to forgo part of their salary. Players who earn more than £6,000 per week are taking a 50% pay cut. Mind you, this is a club currently 16th in the Championship, far from the financial juggernauts seen in the Premier League (looking at you Tottenham). Higher up the table, Leeds United took the most impactful step when it comes to preserving the livelihoods of non-playing staff. Players, coaching staff, and senior management all voluntarily took a wage deferral so workers could be paid fully. An act that should have set a precedent for other top English clubs but sadly it fell on deaf ears. These moves showcase the leadership these clubs have and the heart they have for the workers who put their blood, sweat, and tears into making these clubs so beloved by fans.
With Championship clubs being affected by this crisis a bit more harshly than the Premier League clubs, it makes more sense for them to take the furlough scheme. Millwall recently had to furlough both non-playing staff and players but they’re doing everything they can to help the community, such as opening a contact service for those who are alone in quarantine.
With other major European countries such as Juventus and FC Barcelona freezing/cutting player and manager wages, its fair to wonder why Premier League clubs and players refuse to forgo their salaries and avoid furloughing their staff. From the onset, it makes sense for any club to utilize the government’s helping hand and then top off any leftover wages but all of these clubs are in great financial condition, with players earning above and beyond the common stadium worker. Its greed, in the end, both on the players and the owners.