| 18.7°C Belfast

Decision day for English football amid calls for player wage cuts

A shareholders’ meeting takes place on Friday.

Close

An update on professional football in England is expected on Friday (Peter Byrne/PA)

An update on professional football in England is expected on Friday (Peter Byrne/PA)

An update on professional football in England is expected on Friday (Peter Byrne/PA)

English football faces another defining day as the professional game prepares to consider an indefinite suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, while pressure builds for players to accept wage cuts or deferrals.

Premier League clubs will gather via conference call for a shareholders’ meeting on Friday morning, where it is expected they will be briefed on discussions between the league, the English Football League and the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, concerning player wage cuts or deferrals to mitigate the financial impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Consideration will be given to an indefinite suspension of the professional game in England rather than a fixed date, with the landscape having shifted significantly since March 19 when the decision was taken to suspend until at least April 30.

The purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not to support the economics of Premier League clubs.Julian Knight MP in a letter to the Premier League's CEO

Clubs from the Premier League to League Two have already placed non-playing staff on furlough leave under the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme which pays 80 per cent of an employee’s monthly salary up to a maximum of £2,500.

Pressure is mounting on the PFA from the Premier League and the EFL to agree to measures under which players make some form of sacrifice, with Tranmere chairman and former Football Association chief executive Mark Palios saying a collective agreement was “absolutely essential”.

The sport is also facing external pressure, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling on Premier League players to take a cut.

He said: “I think that everybody needs to play their part in this national effort and that means Premier League footballers too.

“Given the sacrifices that many people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS who have made the ultimate sacrifice of going into work and have caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part.”

Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee Julian Knight has also written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters calling for action on player wages.

Knight says that clubs which furlough non-playing staff but do not impose cuts on player wages should be subjected to a windfall tax if they do not change approach by next Tuesday, April 7.

“The purpose of the coronavirus job retention scheme is not to support the economics of Premier League clubs,” Knight wrote.

“Your organisation should be role modelling a responsible approach rather than tolerating divisive practices.

“European clubs, including Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona, have shown that it is possible to reach an agreement with players whereby they agree to take pay reductions for a set period. I would like to request that the PL seek to broker an agreement between member clubs to change their approach.”

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and his Brighton counterpart Graham Potter have agreed to wage cuts in the last two days, along with other senior staff at those clubs, but the PFA is under pressure to advise its members to do the same.

From the PFA’s side, its view is that it is representing the position of all of its members, many of whom do not earn vast sums of money and in some cases play for clubs where there has been a failure to pay wages for other reasons in the past.

It favours a consistent approach to deferrals and wants to ensure clubs are asking for them out of genuine need.

The FA is due to announce steps it is preparing to take in due course. In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, the national governing body said: “We want to ensure that we take the appropriate course of action to support the wider organisation and our employees.”

As well as cuts and deferrals, the issue of extending player contracts beyond June 30 is also being discussed, with the intention still being to complete the 2019-20 season in the summer months, behind closed doors if necessary.

FIFA and UEFA have set up working groups to look at this issue, with the general secretary of world players’ union FIFPRO Jonas Baer-Hoffmann saying earlier this week that a “harmonisation” was being sought whereby contracts are extended until the point the season actually ends.

Close

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber (PA)

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber (PA)

PA

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber (PA)

Premier League clubs will also have observed developments in France this week, where a further national lockdown and a lack of clarity over when Ligue 1 action might resume has led to domestic rights holders Canal Plus and beIN SPORTS withholding payments until the postponed matches take place.

It has been reported that a failure to complete any more matches would cost Premier League clubs around £750million in broadcast revenue alone.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber says it remains the clubs’ intention to get the season done, but admits there are no guarantees.

“As much as we want to complete the season – and we will look at every option to do that – I think we are realistic about the challenges we are facing,” he said.

“This is a national emergency and we can’t be blind to that. The sooner we can play again hopefully we can lift the difficult times we are experiencing. But we can’t think about that too much, people’s health is the number one priority.

“We cannot return to football if it is not safe to do so, that is out of the question.”

PA