Football's power-brokers fail to agree deal on players' pay during coronavirus crisis

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

They all knew everyone was watching, they’d even been accused of operating in a "moral vacuum" but still, after an afternoon of talks, football’s power brokers from the Premier League, the EFL and the Professional Footballers Association were unable to say they were making progress. That’s because, in reality they had failed to agree on anything.

The players union, the PFA is demanding to see every club’s financial data, before advising its members to agree to any deal that involves an adjustment of wages; whether that be a cut or a deferral of income.

But accuse the PFA of obstruction to what ethically seems inappropriate and you provoke a robust defence. “The PFA are not blocking things. That is not the case.” one senior union executive told me. “We’ve just asked for information so players can make informed decisions about their careers.”

In a letter to players the PFA advised them not to sign anything until they’d passed it by the union. In layman’s terms they don’t trust all clubs to do the right thing and even suspect that a few will knowingly try to use the C-19 pandemic to their own advantage.

The stand-off has been magnified after Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to furlough more than 500 of its non-playing staff. One of Europe’s richest clubs using a government emergency bail-out while continuing to pay its players in full, an average £70 thousand per week, is not a wholesome look as the UK reflects on a day of a record number of deaths. Remember the Premier League grossed in excess of £4 billion at the last count.

In the PFA's letter to players, it urges players to 'collectively discuss proposals with the PFA'. Credit: PFA

The PFA understands the criticism but says it’s approaching this conundrum in a logical rather than emotional way. The union is also warning of “unintended consequences”, suggesting that highly paid players taking a cut in wages actually only serves to rob the treasury of much needed tax revenues. They haven’t done the sums to prove who would end up better off but insist they want to make “informed decisions and not empty gestures.”

There is nothing to stop players acting unilaterally, as Leeds United and many clubs on the continent have already done, but it appears most are waiting for the PFA’s lead. The irony is the majority of the best paid players are almost certainly perfectly happy to accept a wage adjustment to help out; many already do much community and charity work that doesn’t get anywhere near the attention their exploits on the pitch do.

The talks will continue over the next two days, but it doesn’t appear we’re close to a breakthrough. If that is the case, when football and particularly the Premier League looks back at how it managed this crisis, it may struggle to feel proud.

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