The Professional Footballers’ Association has said that players must ‘share the financial burden’ of the coronavirus pandemic, hitting back at reports that they’ve blocked footballers’ wage deferrals.
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, but pressure is mounting on players to accept wage cuts.
The players’ union said in a lengthy statement on Thursday evening: “We fully accept 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.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and his Brighton counterpart Graham Potter have already agreed to wage cuts in the past two days, along with other senior staff at those clubs,
Meanwhile, players and management staff at Championship leaders Leeds have also agreed to defer wages.
But some Premier League clubs have made use of the furloughing scheme – including Tottenham in a move criticised by their former player Gary Lineker – and the PFA added that clubs should only be doing so if it is absolutely necessary.
The statement added: “We are aware of the public sentiment that the players should pay non-playing staff’s salaries.
“However, our current position is that – as businesses – if clubs can afford to pay their players and staff, they should.
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“The players we have spoken to recognise that the non-playing staff are a vital part of their club and they do not want to see club staff furloughed unfairly.
“Any use of the government’s support schemes without genuine financial need is detrimental to the wider society.”
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville hit out at Health Secretary Matt Hancock – who has led calls for top-flight stars to take voluntary cuts.
“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 posted on Twitter.
“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 f@@@@@g cheek!”
Hancock’s comments came on the same day chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee Julian Knight wrote to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters calling for action on player wages.
Knight said 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 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.”
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Premier League clubs are due to 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 PFA.
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 action until at least April 30.
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.