Is the attack on the Premier League justified?

When Matt Hancock, the health secretary was asked to comment on some Premier League clubs deciding to ‘furlough’ non-playing staff….

“Given the sacrifices that many people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS who have made the ultimate sacrifice… I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part.”

….his reply lead to an eruption of debate.

The question was put to Hancock in relation to the decision from Tottenham Hotspur to place their non-playing staff on ‘furlough’ despite announcing on the very same day that Daniel Levy recieved a £3million bonus from the club. A decision lacking intellect and compassion.

Five clubs in total took advantage and placed non-playing staff on ‘furlough. In all fairness different clubs in the Premier League are in different financial positions and all decisions need to be looked at individually. One of those clubs Bournemouth FC also announced that manager Eddie Howe, chief executive Neill Blake, first-team technical director Richard Hughes and assistant manager Jason Tindall have all taken “significant, voluntary pay cuts for the entirety of this uncertain time.”

The thing with football is it’s a team game. To be successful (whatever that is for each individual club) it’s not just about the eleven players on the pitch each week. Or the twenty five or so in your squad. It’s the backroom staff, the physio,  the kit man, the canteen staff, the receptionist and as former footballer Alan McInally reminded us that person who brings you the cup of tea. And these workers have been let down by some of these clubs.

As soon as the restrictions kicked in it was clear that football wouldn’t be back for a couple of months. It was then that the clubs and the players needed to communicate with each other over the financial issues that were certain to arise in a league heavily reliant on TV revenue and match day experiences. The minute clubs decided they needed to lay off non-playing staff was the very minute the players should have stepped up to the plate. These are the people that treat the players on a daily basis like kings. Tend to their every need. Look out for the players and make sure they play their part in preparing each and every day for them.

So when the tables are turned and it’s the non-playing staff who need to be looked out for, at Tottenham Hotspur firstly the players should have stepped up to the mark and secured the wages of those staff who do so much for them. The same goes for Liverpool and Newcastle. Employees need to feel part of any business, to know that they will be looked after in times of need. A happy worker is a good worker. If they feel secure in their job and part of the big picture then they will give you their all. Some of the non-playing staff in these clubs will be very disappointed at how it has been handled. And it’s not a lack of understanding of why the clubs might start off making cuts. It’s disappointment and maybe upset at a missed opportunity by the players to show that they would have the staff’s back that tend to their every need day in and day out.

It was fantastic to see so many Liverpool fan’s and ex-player’s calling out the club and venting their disgust at how the club handled the situation. Jamie Carragher didn’t hide his disgust. And in turn they were the deciding factor in why Liverpool FC reversed their decision to ‘furlough’ their staff. Also Liverpool could have been stubborn and decided not to listen but realised their mistake and resolved it. Again, it’s not about the club paying money, it’s about loyalty to your people. Barcelona player’s took no time at all to take a 70% cut in wages and make other contributions to ensure the team’s other employees will still be paid during Spain’s state of emergency amid the coronavirus pandemic. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players also took a 20% reduction in order to support club employees’ during the shutdown in German football.

So with all that in mind yes clubs and players deserve a bit of stick for all those above reasons. But also some of the criticism of the clubs and players was ridiculous. Let’s tackle Nick Hancock’s “take a paycut” firstly. As is widely known now if that did happen the tax generated of hundreds of millions that footballers pay would be reduced. It was quoted that 30% reduction over a year be taken which means around £200million lost in tax which would no doubt help this crisis. That would be counterproductive in this current situation, but sometimes politicians say stupid things just to be seen to say something and without thinking.

What we haven’t seen is politicians calling out any other sector to take pay cuts or to make donations. No billionaires being challenged, No multi-millionaire musicians, movie star’s, TV stars or millionaire golfers boxers or F1 Drivers. It’s easy to take a swipe at football because of its wide appeal and it’s relevance in communities. Football players and clubs do a huge amount of charity work for their areas, give large donations and alot of that goes under the radar.

The new #PlayersTogether fund that has been set up by Premier League players is welcomed and has to be applauded. The players have partnered with NHS Charities Together (NHSCT) in order to assist them in generating and distributing funds quickly and efficiently to where they are needed most. With varying wages throughout the league it is down to each individual player how much they donate and how often and each donation will also be made anonymously.

Was the #PlayersTogether fund put forward because of the pressure generated from Hancock’s reply to that question? Most likely. Would the players have donated towards charities and people in need in this time of uncertainty anyhow? Past evidence suggests they would have of course. Professional footballer’s have always been both financially supportive and supportive with their time towards their community or within their country of origin.

So was the attack on the Premier League justified? The answer is yes and no. No because there was no justification to ask for Premier League players to take wage cuts and make donations above any other well paid or over paid individual. But mostly yes! For two reasons. One, The players at the clubs that non-playing staff were placed on ‘furlough’ missed a trick to show the loyalty towards there fellow work colleagues. Two, Any club making wage cuts or asking for their staff to take reductions should only do so when it’s absolutely needed and to include all employees both non-playing and playing. It was a ridiculous decision to let the lowest paid workers go and feel isolated. ‘You Never Walk Alone’ may very well be Liverpools anthem but for a very good reason it should be a statement on which every club should be built on.

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