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Three Northern Ireland stars affected as Hearts plan 50% pay slash



Liam Boyce is among three Northern Ireland internationals currently playing for Hearts.

Liam Boyce is among three Northern Ireland internationals currently playing for Hearts.

Liam Boyce is among three Northern Ireland internationals currently playing for Hearts.

Hearts players and staff have been asked to take a stunning 50% wage cut amid financial fears.

The Scottish Professional Football League was suspended last Friday "until further notice" along with all non-league and grassroots football due to the coronavirus crisis and it could be several months before normality returns to the game.

In order to prevent redundancies at the Tynecastle club, owner Ann Budge has taken cost-cutting steps which will reverberate across Scottish football.

Three Northern Ireland internationals - Liam Boyce, Michael Smith and Conor Washington -will be among those whose income is being slashed, along with NI and Hearts coach Austin MacPhee.

Boyce only joined Hearts in January, agreeing a three-and-a-half-year deal after leaving Burton Albion.

In a statement on the club's website, Budge said: "In order to try to prevent a staff redundancy programme and to protect as many jobs as possible, I am proposing to implement a club-wide salary reduction programme.

"We have asked all full-time employees, managers, coaches, players and player back-room staff, with effect from the beginning of April, to accept a 50% cut in their monthly salary. No one's full-time salary will fall below the living wage.

"In other words, if the 50% reduction would take anyone's salary below this threshold, the full-time salary will be set at £18,135.

"Given the uncertainty of the whole situation with which we have been presented, we cannot say how long these measures will be in place.

"We will, of course, be continuously reviewing the situation. Staff and players alike, who feel unable or unwilling to accept this revision to their contracts, will, of course, be offered the option of contract termination."

Budge explained the background to the dire situation was due to "unprecedented and challenging times".

She said: "As you will appreciate my priority is the health and wellbeing of our people and in addition to this, as chairman and CEO of the club, I must also do everything in my power to ensure that we keep our club safe and financially sound.

"The Scottish FA have now suspended football for the foreseeable future and, whilst there is no specified end date to this, it is most likely that the game will not resume until July/early August at the earliest.

"In addition, the latest government measures regarding social distancing and restrictions on large gatherings mean that the impacts of this will be felt across our entire business.

"This has two main consequences for the club: There will be no income from matches and all associated business streams whilst football is suspended; There is unlikely to be any income from our non-match day business streams (e.g. events/bar).

"This reduction in income is not sustainable without taking immediate action to cut staff costs and overheads.

"As such, I need to act swiftly and take steps now to ensure that we, as a club, can weather this storm while trying to ensure we are ready to resume operations as and when we move into calmer waters and football restarts.

"I cannot achieve this without the full co-operation and support of all of our key stakeholders, namely staff, coaches, players and supporters.

"I cannot stress strongly enough that we need everyone to get behind the club to help us through this."

Meanwhile, the EFL have announced a £50m short-term relief package to assist cash-strapped clubs during the crisis.

Finance was key among the topics discussed at yesterday's EFL board meeting, when a plan to help ease the financial burden was agreed.

In a statement, the competition said: "As part of the league's continued contingency planning, the board heard the comments and observations from EFL clubs, before discussing a number of issues including the current financial position and implications, insurance, regulatory matters and broadcasting arrangements.

"Discussions centred on financial relief for clubs in the short-term and while there is no one single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately assist with cash flow via a £50m short-term relief package."

Such news will be welcome, with Covid-19 leaving League One and League Two clubs facing a reported £50m black hole.

The EFL board continue to review the threat and impact of the pandemic through a dedicated taskforce, and underlined that finishing the season is key.

Belfast Telegraph