Talks between the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association are ongoing over wage deferrals following a stark warning from Daniel Levy about the pandemic’s potentially dire consequences for the sport.
The Tottenham chairman said clubs “big or small” may struggle to survive the crisis, as he announced 20 per cent pay cuts for all 550 non-playing staff and called on players to do “their bit”.
Levy urged people “to wake up to the enormity of what is happening around us”. The subtext was obvious: players need to grasp the severity of the situation and make sacrifices.
Putting aside questions of whether Levy could do more — he has taken a 20 per cent cut but earned £7million last year, making him the highest-paid director in the Premier League — the time has come for players to act.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also called for action, saying today: “Highly-paid football players... should be the first ones to sacrifice their salary.”
While stars at leading continental clubs have taken salary cuts of up to 70 per cent, the PFA are reluctant to sanction similar measures. English clubs risk breaching contracts if they unilaterally slash wages, potentially allowing players to walk away for free.
PFA chairman Gordon Taylor this week revealed their opposition to pay cuts, amid fear that clubs could use the situation to suit their own ends.
His comments felt tone deaf and leave the PFA — and the players — looking out of touch. The best-paid stars may face a backlash if the PFA cannot reach a compromise soon, particularly if more leading clubs accept government funds and cut non-player salaries.
While many players are contributing positively to the country’s fight against coronavirus, no leading figures have publicly advocated pay cuts or pressured the PFA.
After all, as people across the country are placed on leave, players are continuing to work remotely, but nowhere near at 100 per cent capacity. So why should they continue to receive full pay?
And on Wednesday, a joint statement by the Football Supporters’ Association, the Premier League, the English Football League and the FA, revealed it still could be some time before play resumes.
It read: “There are no quick answers to how and when we will return to what used to be our football normality.”
The average Premier League player earns more than £60,000 a week and top clubs are pushing for a wage cut or deferral of at least 30 per cent.
At Spurs, where Harry Kane earns around £200,000 a week, player wage cuts of as little as three per cent could cover the 20 per cent shortfall.
In the meantime, staff face reduced pay, potentially taking them below the living wage, as people make sacrifices. It feels amoral.
The situation is not unique to the Premier League, with the chairman of a League One club admitting concern about the loss of respect for the players from staff if the PFA do not agree to cuts soon.
The union are expected to push for wage deferrals today, but many clubs believe such measures would only put financial hardships on ice.
In fairness to the PFA, it is imperative that they protect players at the foot of the pyramid, but concessions at the other end of the scale are overdue.
The expectation is that an agreement over wage deferrals could be reached by Friday when Premier League clubs meet, and most players will gladly accept the measures.
That is the right call. We are all in this together, and it is time for footballers to do right by their colleagues, their clubs and the country.