Liverpool have become the latest high-profile club to furlough non-playing staff on the day Burnley warned that some Premier League clubs could lose £100m as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The Premier League leaders announced their decision to put approximately 200 employees on furlough as managers, captains and representatives of all top-flight clubs held a conference call to discuss wage reductions and deferrals, or a combination of both, of up to 30%. The proposals, outlined at the Premier League stakeholders’ meeting on Friday, will be discussed among squads over the coming days with a view to reaching a collective agreement by the end of the week.
Liverpool, however, have now followed Newcastle, Tottenham, Norwich and Bournemouth in claiming 80% of non-playing staff wages from the government’s furlough scheme. Workers in the club’s stores and in-house television studios are among those affected, with various departments shut down since football was suspended on 13 March. Liverpool will pay the remaining 20% of wages to ensure no member of staff is financially disadvantaged, and last month confirmed that match-day and non-matchday staff would be paid while the season is halted.
But the move demonstrates why the Professional Footballers’ Association is reluctant to sanction wage cuts among players when billionaire owners are using taxpayers’ money to prop-up businesses.
It was only on 27 February that Liverpool announced they made a pre-tax profit of £42m and increased turnover to £533m in the 2018-19 financial year. In 2017-18 they posted a world record pre-tax profit for a football club of £125m. Liverpool’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, and a senior players’ committee comprising the captain, Jordan Henderson, along with James Milner, Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum have discussed pay reductions with owners Fenway Sports Group since the season was suspended last month. The players and Klopp have offered to take measures that would ensure no non-playing staff member loses their job should the crisis continue long-term.
In a statement, the club confirmed: “Even prior to the decision on staff furloughing, there was a collective commitment at senior levels of the club – on and off the pitch – with everyone working towards a solution that secures jobs for employees of the club during this unprecedented crisis. There is ongoing active engagement about the topic of salary deductions during the period matches are not being played to schedule. These discussions are complex and as a result the process is ongoing.”
The scale of the financial crisis facing even wealthy Premier League clubs was underlined by a warning from Burnley on Saturday that they stand to lose £50m from the continued suspension of the season, and other clubs with bigger match-day revenues up to double that amount.