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April 7, 2020

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EPL faces backlash over pay cut

The English Premier League is facing a fierce backlash after Liverpool became the latest club to tap into public funds during the novel coronavirus pandemic as players and bosses struggle to resolve a festering pay-cut row.

English top-flight clubs, among the wealthiest in the world, have come under intense scrutiny as the health crisis escalates, with government ministers warning bosses and players they should “think carefully” over their next moves.

The highest-paid EPL players such as David de Gea and Kevin De Bruyne command eye-watering salaries, reportedly nearing 20 million pounds (US$25 million) a year.

Even the average salary for an EPL footballer is more than 3 million pounds a year, according to the 2019 Global Sports Salaries Survey.

European champion Liverpool, which recorded pre-tax profits of 42 million pounds in February, announced its decision to furlough some non-playing staff on Saturday, becoming the fifth EPL club to do so.

The controversial move comes with no sign of a deal between EPL clubs and players’ representatives on a pay cut.

Olivier Dowden, a culture and sports minister, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said people had a right to expect leadership from football. “Clubs, players and owners should be thinking very carefully about their next steps,” he said.

“Leaving the public purse to pick up the cost of furloughing low-paid workers, whilst players earn millions and billionaire owners go untouched is something I know the public will rightly take a very dim view of.”

Former Liverpool stars Jamie Carragher and Stan Collymore strongly criticized the move by the EPL leader.

Under the scheme, the British government pays 80 percent of wages. Liverpool said it would top up the remaining 20 percent.

“I don’t know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won’t be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloughing staff,” tweeted Collymore.

Liverpool fan group Spirit of Shankly initially supported the move but later wrote to the club expressing concern at the negative reaction.

“We understand this is essentially an employee/employer issue, but as LFC’s recognized official supporter representatives we are concerned about the damage this is causing to our club’s reputation and values,” the group said.

Liverpool’s opponents in last year’s UEFA Champions League final, Tottenham Hotspur, owned by billionaire Joe Lewis, has also opted for the furlough option, along with Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth.

Reigning champion Manchester City said it would not be using the government’s job retention scheme, with Manchester United reportedly set to follow its example.

The EPL has been seen as lagging behind other European leagues in its response to coronavirus — in Spain, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid players have agreed to pay cuts of 70 percent.

The EPL’s suggested strategy involving a combination of pay cuts and deferrals amounting to 30 percent of wages, was discussed in a conference call with players’ and managers’ representatives on Saturday.

But former England captain Wayne Rooney has criticized the British government and the EPL for placing footballers in a “no-win” situation.

Rooney questioned the wisdom of the EPL in preempting behind-the-scenes talks involving players with its own proposals for sweeping reductions. “In my opinion it is now a no-win situation,” he said in a newspaper column. “Whatever way you look at it, we’re easy targets.”


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