Premier League clubs have asked their players to take a 30% wage cut, although no agreement has yet been reached on the matter.
It follows a meeting on Friday when it was agreed that the proposed league restart date of April 30th was not feasible, given the extent of the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK at present, with thousands of victims and hundreds of deaths a day being recorded, and that the season would not begin again until it was safe to do so.
Professional footballers have been under attack from British politicians in recent days. Earlier in the week, Julian Knight, the chair of the digital, culture, media and sports committee, described the Premier League as living in a “moral vacuum” and that players should accept salary reductions. And then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock waded into the fray by saying that players should do their bit and accept a salary reduction during the pandemic (without giving any indications that he was prepared to follow suit!).
The Premier League has so far appeared out of step with other countries where pay cuts have been agreed. In Spain, players and coaching staff at Barcelona and Atlético Madrid have agreed to a reduction of 70% in their wages during the crisis, whilst, I Italy, the Juventus team and manager will not be paid for four months to help the club survive.
And, in Germany, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players have already agreed a 20% wage cut, whist their colleagues at Borussia Monchengladbach will be foregoing their salaries completely for a while.
However, the Premier League clubs and players are threatening to splinter over the decision, with the latter looking for guarantees.
As the proposals currently stand, there will be a 10% wage cut immediately, with a further 20% deferral until the start of next season, whenever that commences.
One of the sticking points is the treatment of non-playing staff. A number of clubs, like Tottenham, Newcastle, Norwich and Bournemouth – have taken advantage of government schemes to place the majority of non-playing staff in furlough. This is effectively making them temporarily redundant, with the state paying their wages up to 80% of what they were earning before.
Some regard the move as a cynical manipulation of the scheme by greedy club owners looking to pass on their share of the financial pain to others less well-off by themselves. So players want to know how the money they are giving up will help preserve jobs and keep clubs afloat.
The dispute between Premier League clubs and their players could yet get very bitter.