Call us naive, but while the news that Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United would be dipping into the government’s relief scheme to help pay employees furloughed during the coronavirus crisis was absolutely not surprising, we expected more from Liverpool.
After all, this is a club that sells itself partly on the values of Bill Shankly’s socialism, as a community club for whom ‘this means more’.
But even though they have promised to ensure all furloughed staff would receive 100% of their pay during the crisis, their statement announcing these measures omitted to mention that the government would be paying a large amount of that.
In a piece for the i this week, Daniel Storey called clubs like Newcastle, Liverpool and Tottenham had committed an act of ‘moral vandalism’, and on the Totally Football Show this Monday, he expanded on that.
“This is the thing that should cause anger,” said Daniel. “That furlough scheme, the retention scheme [where the government would pay 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month], was intended to be open for everyone but it was also intended to be used by those companies who really needed it to avoid a financial apocalypse over the next three to six months. I don’t think any of the clubs who have chosen to do it in the Premier League are at risk from that financial apocalypse.
“Tottenham and Liverpool are two of the clubs that have already announced fairly significant profits, and both got to the Champions League final which increased their coffers, so I think that is morally repugnant. I don’t think there’s any excuse for that. Particularly Tottenham, who are not even – as we stand at the moment – adding the 20%, they are just allowing their staff to eventually get the 80% paid by the taxpayer.
“And I think that’s worth remembering: this idea that the government are going to pay out of a magic pot is a nonsense. Eventually it will be passed on to the taxpayer in increased taxes.
“I’m really glad to see, not just from the ex-players but from supporters, I was worried tribalism would play a part here in that supporters would say it’s fine and make excuses, but they seem to not have done that.
“It would be interesting to know what someone like Jurgen Klopp who is very open with his socialism, what he thinks of it, because it seems like such a dim move.
“The weird thing about Tottenham is that they’ve even done this with their scouting staff. With video analysis it feels like that’s the one thing you can do. It’s possible for them to keep on doing their job and plan for when the transfer window does arrive.”
Subsequently both Manchester clubs have confirmed they will not be touching the government pot, and Daniel wondered if this was a reaction to the criticism Liverpool et al have received.
“I do think the clubs who have gone against what you’d call ‘the right’ moral path will be the fall guys here. I suspect, given the adverse reaction, other clubs will do the right thing and it wouldn’t surprise me if Liverpool and Tottenham went back on their decisions and agreed to pay those staff.
“The weird thing is that it was estimated it cost Manchester United £1million to pay all their casual staff for the games they’ve missed. A club like Liverpool will pay a PR firm over £1million to smooth over such mistakes. It seems such an easy fix I suspect they will at some point go back on it.”
Of course footballers have taken a kicking, in particular from health secretary Matt Hancock who has repeatedly insisted that they should renounce part of their salaries in the crisis. While that might be true, it firstly feels like needless victimisation and point-scoring, secondly ignores the fact that most footballers seem pretty keen to do their part and thirdly takes attention away from good things players are doing.
“I think it should just be left up to individuals to decide what they want to do with their own money, essentially,” said Matt Davies-Adams on the show. “I think we’ve seen with the campaigns led by Marcus Rashford and what Jordan Henderson has been doing, most players will be happy to help out as long as they don’t feel they’re being strong-armed into it.
“What Rashford’s done, getting meals out to kids in Manchester who usually have free school meals is incredible. I was reading on the Athletic that the Murphy brothers, Jacob and Josh, who have been volunteering delivering prescriptions to elderly people around Norfolk.
“This is the kind of thing you want to hear about, but inevitably it’s much easier for politicians to talk about what footballers aren’t doing, because they’re constantly used and held up as these ungrateful millionaires who don’t deserve the money they have. It’s an easy stick to beat them with, that they’re young men with a lot of money and they should be giving it away. Seems odd to me.”
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