Liverpool have performed a u-turn on their decision to place some non-playing staff on the Government’s furlough scheme as chief executive Peter Moore admitted they came to the “wrong conclusion”.
Fans and former players reacted angrily to the news Liverpool, who in February revealed pre-tax profits of £42million for 2018-19, intended to use the taxpayer-funded initiative during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the initiative, the Government would have paid 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 of around 200 staff it was understood to affect, while Liverpool announced they would top up the remainder of the salaries.
— Liverpool FC (at 🏠) (@LFC) April 6, 2020
Fellow Premier League clubs Newcastle, Tottenham, Norwich and Bournemouth have already confirmed their plan to furlough some non-playing staff but the reigning European champions have now backtracked on the decision they made public over the weekend.
Moore admitted Liverpool must now find another way to mitigate potential losses in a season that was shutdown with the Merseysiders runaway leaders in the top-flight, firmly on course for a first Premier League title.
In a letter to the club’s fans, Moore said: “We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the coronavirus retention scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that.
“Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period.
“We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme.”
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) April 6, 2020
Former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher was among those to criticise Saturday’s decision but said on Twitter following the latest update: “Well done @PeterMooreLFC @LFC a big mistake initially & thankfully now it’s been put right.”
Moore, though, sounded a note of caution to supporters, warning of “inevitable damage” to Liverpool’s financial position because of the Covid-19 crisis.
He added: “Despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain.
“The club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic. These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between.
“It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses.
“Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have.
“We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage.”
Liverpool’s rivals Manchester United have told their staff members they will not be making use of the Government furlough scheme, with around 900 full-time employees understood to be paid as if they were working normally.
But anyone unable to work from home or those with reduced workloads have been strongly encouraged to volunteer time to the NHS or their local communities.
Liverpool’s decision prompted the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust to urge their club to follow suit.
A brief statement on Twitter read: “We have been saying consistently @SpursOfficial – pause and rethink. We are now saying it clearly and in public – do not further damage the Club’s reputation, listen to your fans.”
Meanwhile, a streaming service has written to the Premier League to defer payments due to the suspension of competition.
DAZN, which holds rights to stream all English top-flight matches in Brazil, Canada, Japan and Spain, is in negotiations to halt payments until clarity is given as to when and how the 2019-20 season can be completed, the PA news agency understands.
The Premier League’s overriding priority is to aid the health and wellbeing of the nation and our communities. The 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 3, 2020
The league announced last Friday that there was no prospect of professional football returning by the start of May, and was instead keeping a decision on when the game could safely come back amid the coronavirus pandemic under constant review.
DAZN said in a statement: “We don’t discuss commercial conversations but we’re, of course, in the process of working closely with partners to reach reasonable solutions given the unprecedented circumstances.”
Premier League clubs were reported to have told players in a conference call on Saturday that the cost of being unable to resume the season at all would be more than £1billion.
It is estimated that of that £1billion, £762million of it would be lost TV revenue, as rights holders either claw back money paid or withhold payments not yet made.
It is understood talks are continuing between players, their union the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Premier League clubs over a 30 per cent wage reduction by way of cuts and deferrals, dependent on what the eventual outcome is. The talks are understood to be taking place on a club-by-club basis.