The British government on Thursday (2) said English Premier League footballers should take a pay cut, amid outrage at top-flight clubs using a furlough scheme for non-playing staff.
Tottenham, Newcastle and Norwich have said they will use a government scheme to guarantee 80 per cent of salaries for staff up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,100, 2,850 euros) per month.
The decision prompted anger from the head of parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee, Julian Knight, as no cuts have so far been agreed for high-earning players.
Asked whether it was ethical for clubs to put non-playing staff on the furlough scheme, health secretary Matt Hancock said everyone needed to play a part in the fightback against coronavirus.
“That means Premier League footballers too,” he told a news conference in Downing Street.
“Given the sacrifices that many people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice of going into work, and have caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part,” he added.
Knight has written to the Premier League to express what he said was his “dismay” and warned that “this two-tier system is morally wrong”.
“The purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retentions Scheme is not to support the economics of Premier League clubs”.
He has proposed “financial redress” so the government recoups a proportion of the money clubs pay to the players if there is no change of approach.
The Premier League are in discussions with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) but no salary cuts have yet been agreed.
Players at Spanish club Barcelona have taken a 70 per cent pay cut, while in Italy the Juventus squad have agreed to stop their wages for four months.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe became the first top-flight manager to take a voluntary pay cut because of the crisis on Wednesday, with Brighton boss Graham Potter following suit on Thursday by agreeing a “significant voluntary pay cut” for the next three month.
But the recent announcement that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy would be paid a £7 million salary, on the day his club’s non-playing staff were furloughed, increased the feeling that Premier League teams are out of touch with the public mood.
Premier League clubs will gather via conference call for a meeting on Friday which will also include the English Football League and the PFA.
They will discuss the issue of pay cut or deferrals to mitigate the financial impact of the outbreak.
Consideration is expected to be given to an indefinite suspension of the professional game in England with the landscape having shifted significantly since March 19 when the decision was taken to suspend play until at least April 30.
The PFA have been keen for all clubs to agree a unified deal that cuts or defers wages by the same amount for each player, even though stars at the top clubs in the Premier League earn far more than players at smaller clubs.
Revealing a wage deal is expected soon, a statement said: “The PFA fully accepts that players will have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the COVID-19 outbreak in order to secure the long-term future of their own club and indeed the wider game.
“We are hoping to reach an agreement with the Premier League and EFL that secures the long-term future of the clubs and protects players.
“As an industry, we are in discussions with clubs and players to identify the support we can give to our country during this difficult time.”
The union added that it believes that if a club can pay non-playing staff out of their own money, they should, despite being “aware of the public sentiment that the players should pay non-playing staff’s salaries”.
Hancock’s demand for a salary cut will earn praise from many who believe players on multi-million pound contracts are over-paid.
But former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville hit back.
“I wish I was a player for 10 more mins. The PL players are more than likely working on a proposal to help clubs, communities and The NHS,” Neville tweeted.
“It takes longer than 2 weeks to put together. Matt Hancock calling them out when he can’t get tests in place for NHS staff is a [email protected]@@@@g cheek!”