Corona begins to bite pockets of footballers

Monday, March 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which has remained closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo/FILE

London, Sunday

Football is poised for an extraordinary week of wage cuts across the board as the game attempts to forge a way out of the coronavirus crisis at Friday’s Premier League shareholders’ meeting.

Radical measures are being discussed, including wage deferrals across the professional game, with the decision in Italy of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus players to forego a slice of their wages over the next four months amplifying the urgency of the situation.

Juventus announced that all of their players had agreed to a “reduction of compensation... equal to the monthly wages of March, April, May and June.”

With Spain’s La Liga seeing Lionel Messi and players at Barcelona also due to finalise a wage cut this week, the Premier League is likely to follow suit and announce a united position, which could mean huge chunks of wages deferred during the emergency.

Talks are ongoing with the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, but the English game’s highest-earners such as Mesut Ozil, Paul Pogba, Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah will all be affected.

There are tentative plans to restart the 2019-20 season when the Government deems it safe, though there is a growing realisation that football will have to be revolutionised in future if it is to return to anything like the current model.

All parties realise that the health of the nation is the only essential issue at present.

Most clubs are backing local charities and the National Health Service (NHS), the most high profile of which have been offers by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Salford owner Gary Neville to allow health workers to use their hotels for free.

The Premier League are also discussing possible support for EFL clubs most at risk. If lower league clubs rely on Government money for a bail out, the Premier League risk outrage if it does nothing.

However, top-flight clubs are not in a position to finalise support until they shore up their own finances and need a clearer picture of what has to be done. The key issue is finishing the season or else they will be liable to compensate BT, Sky and overseas TV companies.

If a deal can be struck with the PFA which ensures that the health of players is not compromised, starting fixtures behind closed doors is likely. 

If by June there is widespread access to tests that show whether a person has had COVID-19, it would be easier to resume safely, as there would be no need for whole squads to isolate if one player had the virus. It would be possible to ensure that all players participating were virus-free.

One Premier League medic said such tests could be a ‘game changer’ for a resumption, while stressing they would have to be widely available so that testing footballers did not put a strain on public services.

Though officially football is only suspended until April 30, most Premier clubs feel the earliest they will be allowed to resume training would be May. And then only so players change, shower and eat at home to minimise contact at the training ground.

An optimistic scenario might be that football could start in the UK in early June with the Premier League completed within a month, if international dates and the FA Cup are sacrificed.  -Dailymail

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