Premier League accused of ‘moral vacuum’ as clubs cut staff wages

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy announced a 20 percent cut for 550 non-playing staff on the same day it was revealed he was paid £7 million last season. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Premier League accused of ‘moral vacuum’ as clubs cut staff wages

  • Last year’s Champions League finalists Tottenham as well as Newcastle and Norwich have faced a backlash for using the British government’s furlough scheme
  • The squad of Italian champions Juventus, including Cristiano Ronaldo, have agreed to have their wages stopped for four months

LONDON: Premier League clubs have been accused of living in a “moral vacuum,” with players urged to take their share of the financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic as non-playing staff begin to feel the pinch.
Last year’s Champions League finalists Tottenham as well as Newcastle and Norwich have faced a backlash for using the British government’s furlough scheme, which will guarantee 80 percent of employees’ income up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,000) a month.
“It sticks in the throat,” said lawmaker Julian Knight, who chairs the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, referring to the use of public funds to prop up wage bills.
“This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its center.”
The Times said the elite should not be a “drain on the exchequer.”
“(The) furlough scheme is for clubs lower down the pyramid enduring the cash-flow crisis without gate receipts, not by the likes of Spurs and Newcastle United,” the paper said in a comment piece.
That £2,500 sum would be a drop in the ocean for many Premier League stars, yet there has so far been no agreement on wage cuts or deferrals for players, unlike the situation at other top European clubs such as Juventus and Barcelona.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said he hoped discussions between the Premier League and players’ and managers’ representatives would “result in players and coaches doing their bit for the football eco-system.”
Levy is in the firing line despite taking a 20 percent cut in salary for the next two months.
On Tuesday he announced a 20 percent cut for 550 non-playing staff on the same day it was revealed he was paid £7 million last season, including a £3 million bonus for the completion of the club’s new stadium, which ran well over time and budget.
Players at Barcelona have taken a 70 percent pay cut during Spain’s state of emergency and will make additional contributions to ensure other employees receive full wages.
The squad of Italian champions Juventus, including Cristiano Ronaldo, have agreed to have their wages stopped for four months while players at German giants Bayern Munich accepted a 20 percent pay cut.
“Clearly, when players at Barcelona, or Juventus voluntarily, or some German clubs voluntarily enter into these agreements with their clubs, then good on them,” said FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.
“Where the players have the means and they step forward I think that shows very much that they understand what is happening right now and frankly we will be seeing more of that.”
The chasm in player earnings between the top end of the game and the lower leagues, and even within the same clubs, complicates the role of players’ unions in finding common ground.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC that top-flight players should take the hit.
He said: “Highly paid football players are people who can carry the greatest burden and they should be the first one to, with respect, sacrifice their salary, rather than the person selling the program or the person who does catering.”
Players do not want to be the fall guys in a crisis only for clubs to behave irresponsibly when their income returns.
“If a club is doing deferrals then the regulations state that they would be embargoed from signing any players,” said PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.
“It’s ridiculous to have clubs deferring their obligations to players and then making big-money transfer signings.”
Transfer talk tends to fill the void during the summer football break, but that is far from the minds of most executives just trying to ensure their clubs are still standing in a few months’ time.
“When I read or hear stories about player transfers this summer like nothing has happened, people need to wake up to the enormity of what is happening around us,” said Levy.


Italy’s Serie A to resume on June 20

Updated 29 May 2020

Italy’s Serie A to resume on June 20

  • ‘Italy has started to return to normal life again, it is only right that football should do the same’

ROME: Italy’s Serie A was given the green light on Thursday to resume on June 20 after a three-month absence as one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic begins to ease restrictions.
Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said that the government’s Technical and Scientific Committee (CTS) had agreed to the health protocol proposed by Italian football chiefs.
“Italy has started to return to normal life again, it is only right that football should do the same,” said Spadafora.
“The federation assured me that it had a Plan B and a Plan C.
“In light of these considerations, the championship can resume on June 20.”
Italian football federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina told the minister during the video conference that a play-off system would be used if the championship were again interrupted, while the existing standings would be used if it were stopped.
“We had a very useful meeting,” said Spadafora. “From the start, I said that football could restart once all the security conditions had been met.”
No top-flight matches in Italy have been played since Sassuolo beat Brescia 3-0 on March 9.
One of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic with over 33,000 deaths, Italian football now faces a scheduling nightmare, for matches which will take place behind closed doors.
Lega Serie A will meet on Friday morning to examine “the different calendar hypotheses” for the remaining Serie A and Italian Cup matches, amounting to 127 in total.
Most teams have 12 league games left to play, but there were four postponed fixtures.
Spadafora suggested that the Italian Cup could be concluded the week before the return to Serie A action.
The semifinal return leg matches between Inter Milan and Napoli and AC Milan and Juventus, could be played on June 13-14 with the final on June 17.
“I also hope to be able to send a positive signal to the whole country by taking advantage of the week from June 13 to 20 to conclude the Italian Cup,” he added.
The announcement of the resumption of the Italian league comes just after the English Premier League confirmed it will restart on June 17.
The German championship has already resumed and Spain’s La Liga will return to the pitch the week of June 8.
Among the five major European championships, only the French Ligue 1 has been definitively stopped.
“I’m happy and satisfied,” said Gravina. “The restart of football represents a message of hope for the whole country.”
But many issues remain to be resolved including match schedules, players’ contracts which end on June 30, and unpaid TV rights by broadcasters.
“Footballers are not robots, there are concerns,” said Damiano Tommasi, president of the players’ union.
“A critical issue is (playing a) match at 4.30pm which in June and July in Italy is unthinkable,” added the former Italy and Roma player.
The thorniest issue remains the two-week quarantine period in the case of a positive test, which Spadafora insisted would remain.
“The CTS agreed with the medical protocol, but confirmed the absolute necessity for a quarantine period if a player were to test positive,” said Spadafora, who did not exclude future changes to the rule.
“I’m ready to bet on the resumption of the championship, but with this rule of quarantine of 14 days, the possibilities of concluding it are not high,” said Enrico Castellacci, president of the Italian Football Doctors Association.
“It’s a crime. I’m not going to quarantine 50 healthy people. We don’t do this if there is a positive case in a factory,” argued Lazio doctor Ivo Pulcini, with the Roman club committed to a resumption of the season, as they sit just one point behind leaders Juventus.