Premier League players are under pressure to agree to wage cuts, and the league and most of its clubs appear more than happy to take that PR win and deflect away from their own questionable actions in handling of the COVID-19 crisis, including furloughs at several teams.
It has put the players in a very awkward position, as Wayne Rooney wrote in an op-ed for the Sunday Times.
“Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats?
“For the Premier League to just announce the proposal, as it has done, increases the pressure on players and in my opinion it is now a no-win situation: if players come out and say they can’t agree or are not willing to cut by 30%, even if the real reasons are that it will financially ruin some, it will be presented as ‘Rich Players Refuse Pay Cut’.
”It seemed strange to me because every other decision in this process has been kept behind closed doors, but this had to be announced publicly. Why? It feels as if it’s to shame the players - to force them into a corner where they have to pick up the bill for lost revenue.”
-Wayne Rooney; source: Sunday Times
While Rooney’s sob story about 30 per cent cuts potentially “ruining” someone are unlikely to garner any sympathy, he does make a very valid point about the optics of the situation. The league’s announcement was the first public statement they had made regarding any response that didn’t involve just delaying the season, and it was done largely without any proper consultation of the players.
As per the Mirror, the players “are happy to dig deep but want their money to go to the right place and feel the Premier League itself and the PFA could be doing a lot more”. Saturday’s “chaotic” conference call did little to clear up the situation for anyone involved or paying attention.
What may or may not happen with regards to unilateral wage cuts in unclear — nor is it clear what would happen to the money itself that’s held back. What is clear, through various media reports, is that the players, many of whom are already providing some form of support, have agreed to set up their own fund, managed by the PFA, to provide direct support for those affected by and battling the pandemic.
In an effort led by Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Manchester United captain Harry Maguire, the players would donate (up to?) 30 per cent of their wages to the fund directly, which would then be used to support the following causes, according to the Mirror.
- The welfare of every employee at their own club to make sure they are not financially disadvantaged by the crisis
- Community groups such as food for underprivileged kids or those seriously affected by the virus who could be left in financial trouble or even homeless
- NHS charities to help aid staff with funds and equipment
The fund would last at least through the end of the current crisis, though would likely continue as a permanent arrangement for various future projects.
Given the circumstances, this solution seems like a better use of player wages than direct cuts or deferments, which would keep the money (at least initially) in owner’s pockets and reduce the amount collected for essential services through taxation as well.