Wednesday 23 September, 2020

Row grows as Premier League players can't agree wage cuts

Liverpool players celebrate winning the FIFA Club World Cup after beating Flamengo 1-0 following extra time in Qatar last December.

Liverpool players celebrate winning the FIFA Club World Cup after beating Flamengo 1-0 following extra time in Qatar last December.

English Premier League players rejected a move Saturday by clubs to cut their wages by 30 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic, escalating a bitter public row as their union claimed the government would lose out on more than 200 million pounds (around $245 million) in tax.

“This would be detrimental to our NHS (National Health Service) and other government-funded services,” the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) said.

The strident stance from the union came after further talks Saturday involving clubs and the league as Liverpool became the latest Premier League side defying political anger by using a government bailout scheme.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston asked the world's richest football league on Friday to ensure it “helps the national effort.”

But Liverpool, which leads the league by 25 points, followed fellow 2019 Champions League finalist Tottenham in announcing some non-playing staff would be furloughed since the competition has been indefinitely suspended.

Under a job retention scheme implemented to help businesses survive the national lockdown, staff can be put on furlough and receive 80 per cent of their salaries from the government, up to a maximum of 2,500 pounds ($3,000) a month.

Liverpool, which are led by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, said it would top up salaries to ensure staff still received the full amount but that still means using public cash to pay some staff. Liverpool made a pre-tax profit of 42 million pounds on a turnover of 533 million pounds last year.

“There is ongoing active engagement about the topic of salary deductions during the period matches are not being played to schedule," Liverpool said. "These discussions are complex and as a result the process is ongoing.”

The statement from Liverpool was issued hours before talks collapsed with no outcome involving players and the league.

A meeting of Premier League clubs on Friday had ended with agreement on the need to ask players to see 30 per cent of salaries cut or deferred.

“The players are mindful that ... the combined tax on their salaries is a significant contribution to funding essential public services — which are especially critical at this time,” the PFA said in a statement. “Taking a 30 per cent salary deduction will cost the Exchequer (treasury) substantial sums.”

Reducing pay by 30 per cent over a year equated to 500 million pounds, the PFA said, claiming the government would lose out on more than 200 million pounds in tax.

“What effect does this loss of earning to the government mean for the NHS?” the PFA statement continued. “Was this considered in the Premier League proposal and did the health secretary, Matt Hancock, factor this in when asking players to take a salary cut?”

The PFA said players would still like “precise details of our commitment” settled, recognising a need to help their clubs, non-playing staff, lower-league sides and the health service.

“However, to achieve a collective position for all Premier League players — of which there are many different financial and contractual circumstances from club-to-club — will take a bit more time," the union said.

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