‘It’s maths for dummies’: how wages debate is viewed inside the game

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The Guardian

Premier League player: Ryan Bertrand Southampton

We’ve heard a lot about this figure of 30% – the cuts that the Premier League would like players to accept in order to plug the financial hole should the worst come to the worst and the season not be able to finish. It has been suggested that it would prop up the lost broadcast revenues of around £750m but, quite simply, it is maths for dummies.

You cannot prescribe a blanket approach. We might need to see a 19% cut at one of the smaller clubs, for example, and 36% at the larger Champions League ones. It’s not because these clubs should pay more; it’s just that their work force is greater. I’m sure if you did 40% here, 20% there and 16% there, you’d get to the overall 30%. I feel that once everyone makes their initial cuts, the overall football model will be saved.

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But really we’ve looked at the situation internally, with the comments of the health minister, Matt Hancock, not helping, when we would be better advised to look at it externally in terms of the Premier League as a business and raise money. You could do this via a loan, secured against future broadcast revenues, which are due to go up and up – regardless of the pandemic. Demand far outweighs supply at the moment.

Covid-19 is a freak situation. It’s got nothing to do with bad business practices at the Premier League or the clubs and I don’t understand why an external short-term loan against the broadcast revenues, plugging the £750m gap, can’t be done. We then save government money by not using furloughs and this can be given to the NHS. The money that players pay in tax could also be safeguarded and put towards the fight against the virus. To me, this is just a clean solution.

League Two player: Luke Prosser Colchester

People look at the Premier League and they just assume that all footballers in all leagues earn silly money and so they should be taking pay cuts but the reality is totally different, certainly in League Two where I play. Even at League One level you can earn a few quid but in League Two, although we’re not on bad money, it’s not a situation where we can afford to say: “We’ll take a 50% pay cut.” We’ve all got mortgages. We’ve got to live.

We’re fortunate at Colchester in that the club is financially well looked after. We sold a couple of players last summer and our run to the Carabao Cup quarter-final stood us in good stead. But if you look at, say, Macclesfield, a club already in money trouble with boys not getting paid on time, you dread to think of being in their shoes. It’s not just about the players getting their wages, it’s whether the clubs are going to stay afloat. All of this is going to have a massive effect in League Two. We got an email saying that we’d get April’s pay but we’ve not had an update since. I know quite a lot of clubs, especially in League Two, have used the furlough scheme and, although we haven’t done that as of yet with our staff, it’s just that not knowing. It’s not looking like football is going to restart in May so I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re meant to be back in for training next Tuesday but I’d be amazed if that were the case.

I’m 32 next month and out of contract in June. I’d like to stay on but will any offer be there now because of money? It’s going to be an interesting summer and it might be hard for players to get clubs.

Premier League chairman: Mike Garlick Burnley

Our players do a great job for us as a club and for the community. They probably do their own things on top that I’m not aware of. They are intelligent people. We will not be unilaterally trying to impose things on any players. If they decided to help us in any way we’d be grateful but we wouldn’t think any less of them if they didn’t. It’s as simple as that. But talks are ongoing.

The absolute worst-case, doomsday scenario is that we don’t finish the season and there is no new season in sight

We’ve taken the decision, certainly short-to-medium term, that we will fund non-playing staff. We will not be furloughing them. If we get to July and the season hasn’t restarted, and the next season isn’t looking like it is going to start, that’s a different position and we might have to revisit it. But at the moment we are going to be funding that ourselves. The absolute worst-case, doomsday scenario is that we don’t finish the season and there is no new season in sight.

I personally don’t think it will come to that. I think we will start when it’s safe to do so. We need to start but if we didn’t then we’ve got some resources at the club. I’m confident we will get through it, we are not going to go bust, but it’s not going to be easy.

Mike Garlick was speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live

League Two chairman: Julian Tagg Exeter City

Some clubs are in a more difficult position at an earlier stage than others – it wasn’t that long ago that we remember not being able to pay wages on a Friday if we didn’t have a game on the Saturday before, so I understand the position that some may be in. There are difficulties facing the board of the EFL because depending on where you sit, you could have an opposite view – you might be at the top of the league or the bottom of the league, cash-rich or cash-poor – so trying to work out those possible scenarios, in terms of what’s best for everybody, is particularly difficult.

Our players take home, on average, around £800 a week and some of our senior playing staff have already deferred wages voluntarily but they are all in different situations. Nobody is going to come out of this happy but the key underneath all of this is the Premier League, who are beginning to unfold their thinking and how they intend to deal with this from a financial point of view and how that finance drips down into the leagues, and the PFA, who have given indications, but nothing definitive. They have to consult their members, which is exactly right, and those things take time, but people are becoming impatient because they are very worried.

It is very easy to be critical but when you consider the magnitude of the issues and the problems that the EFL are facing, they are doing a good job in trying to guide us through this unbelievably difficult period. Will it have an impact? Absolutely. I have no crystal ball but I would have thought it would impact the number of players in a squad and also the wages they earn.

The agent: Dan Chapman

Related: Clarke says players and owners must 'share the pain' of football's financial plight

Many clubs have quite genuine and, in some cases, serious cash‑flow problems caused by the unforeseeable suspension of football. Like many businesses across the country they have an urgent need to reduce their overheads and the largest is often the wage bill. Clubs will be looking at wages for both playing and non‑playing staff, trying to understand where they can make savings, then balancing that against the contractual and legal issues, as well as the government support available. Players, on the other hand, are finding themselves being asked to take a pay cut. Whilst in many cases the players are more than happy to do their bit, they are keen to understand whether the measures proposed are proportionate, absolutely necessary and whether they are temporary or permanent. I believe that in most cases there is a common desire to be realistic and to find solutions that are fair. There will be cases where players feel that their club is behaving opportunistically and perhaps requesting financial sacrifices that go beyond what might be reasonable. Conversely, there will be cases where clubs are in such financial hardship they genuinely risk insolvency if they cannot make urgent reductions in April’s payroll, yet not all employees will be keen to facilitate that.

These differing perspectives would likely be found in most workplaces across the country. The attention that has been brought to bear upon clubs and players, however, is unique. There is no doubt that high-profile pressure has, on the one hand, shone a spotlight on the sport but on the other it has made some parties feel they are being forced to act rather than choosing to. I suspect we will continue to see many clubs and players reaching their own resolutions at club level and I dare say we will also see disagreements prevail at certain clubs. I am not so sure that a sport-wide solution is going to be achievable. Nor, perhaps, is it desirable.

Dan Chapman is a solicitor and partner at the law firm Leathes Prior

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