Beating the bug: English stakeholders locked in talks over pay and season restart options

April 2 – English football’s stakeholders have failed to reach agreement over across-the-board player pay cuts as talks continue to find ways of somehow salvaging the domestic season.

Senior representatives from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the Premier League, the EFL (Football League) and the League Managers Association (LMA) discussed several issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday but said only that talks would continue.

Last month, all professional football in England was initially postponed until April 3, though that was later extended until April 30. Another delay is inevitable with the country still under lockdown and in a joint statement the four bodies said: “No decisions were taken today, with discussions set to continue in the next 48 hours with a focus on several high-profile matters, including player wages and the resumption of the 2019/20 season.”

“The meeting reiterated that the overriding priority is the health and well-being of the nation – including that of players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters – and everyone agreed football must only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”

One mooted restart plan for the Premier League has been to resume play behind closed doors with all players, club staff, officials and TV production crews quarantined in hotels and training camps. Games could be spread across the weeks with just a small number of grounds used to minimise travel.

Games would essentially be played for television only. The Premier League have indicated that they would need a six-week period (excluding any pre-season) to complete the league and the FA Cup. An unfinished Premier League season would likely see the loss of upwards of £800 million.

Player wages

Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to impose a 20% wage reduction on 550 non-playing staff and similar moves by fellow top-flight clubs Newcastle United and Norwich City to take advantage of the UK government’s coronavirus job retention scheme while top stars continue to earn lucrative salaries has led to sharp criticism.

Julian Knight, chair of the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, denounced such a strategy.

“It sticks in the throat,” said Knight. “This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its centre.”

Reports said the PFA had sent an email to all its members asking them not to sign any agreement with their clubs about wage cuts or deferrals without consulting with the union first so a collective agreement can be reached.

Premier League side Bournemouth said its chief executive Neill Blake, first team technical director Richard Hughes, manager Eddie Howe and assistant manager Jason Tindall had all taken “significant, voluntary pay cuts for the entirety of this uncertain time”.

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