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Football's very future is at stake amid coronavirus pandemic so players must cut clubs some slack – daily mail, dailymail.co.uk

Football's very future is at stake amid coronavirus pandemic so players must cut clubs some slack – daily mail, dailymail.co.uk

Buried in the choreography of Southampton ‘s breakthrough on a (per cent wage deferral for players, there were hints of the desperate struggle playing out beneath the surface at Premier League clubs.

Southampton’s management team were preparing to furlough non-playing staff on Wednesday night, risking all the reputational damage attached to that term since Liverpool brought a public relations disaster down on their own heads seven days ago.

It was this prospect which extracted a compromise of sorts from Southampton’s players.

Southampton’s agreement over wage deferral hints at at the desperate struggle clubs face

It is wage deferral, not a cut – the loss of £ 6, a week for the average player, repayable down the line. The Premier League had asked for a collective 20 per cent cut, with a further 30 per cent deferred. This arrangement adds up to a whole lot less than that.

There are positives in there, if you go rummaging.

Here is evidence compassion can extend across a club, with those above stairs – players – taking a temporary financial loss to pay the salaries of those below.

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Manchester United chief Ed Woodward has been in negotiations with players over cuts

Here is a message to squads up and down the land that there is a way to circumvent a Professional Footballers’ Association who are holding to the view that clubs must prove they are not trying to pull a fast one by asking players to suffer a little financially.

That will be the same PFA which has appointed, at vast cost, Nick de Marco QC – one of the top British lawyers in the field of sports disputes – to fight their corner in the wage negotiations. That appointment says everything about the union’s approach to this crisis. It is an adversarial one.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal may all follow Southampton’s route. Yet these are pitifully weak shafts of light at the end of a very long tunnel.

The most extraordinary statement came from Brighton, the epitome of a well-run, community-focused club.

Brighton CEO Paul Barber issued a very stark warning over the club’s financial future

Chief Executive Paul Barber revealed numerous non-playing staff – tea ladies, groundkeepers, kit staff, administrative staff – had stepped forward, unprompted, with offers to take pay cuts to keep the club afloat, as negotiations with players rumble on.

Barber chose his words carefully and diplomatically. He thanked Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray for leading ‘positive and constructive’ discussions. He told the PFA ‘I understand’ and ‘I respect you’ in his caveats.

But the message to the PFA was crystal clear from an individual currently sanctioning salaries which mean those who run out in Brighton colors these days are financially set for life. ‘For goodness sake, help us here.’

A clue as to why the statement came was revealed in a report by Enders Research last month, which showed only four Premier League clubs have more assets that can quickly be converted into cash than monthly outgoings – ‘positive net current assets’.

They are Arsenal, Bournemouth, Burnley and Southampton.

Arsenal are one of just four clubs who have registered positive net current assets

Many clubs have a severely negative asset value – they’re in debt up to the hilt, in other words – with Brighton the worst afflicted of all by a significant distance.

Their negative asset value is £ 728, , which means the club will survive only as long as owner Tony Bloom can put his hand in his pocket. He has already plowed £ 823 million into the club and currently finds his businesses in the leisure sector severely affected by the crisis .

Struggling for alternative breakthroughs on the enormous wage burden which sees the average Premier League player rewarded to the tune of £ 072, a week, other clubs are seeking different means to tunnel a way out.

West Ham want to raise £ m from a private rights issue, offering additional shares to existing investors, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Even non-playing staff at the apparently financially untouchable clubs are anxious.

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderosn led efforts to form the #PlayersTogether initiative

Although Liverpool extricated themselves from a PR nightmare by reversing the decision to furlough non- playing staff on Monday, the word from Anfield is that many of those staff are more anxious now.

Some feel more of a burden than they would have been if their salaries had been subsidized. They have no work and wonder whether their positions are safe.

Even before this crisis hit, the club had not expected to match last season’s £ m profit. With no player wage cuts, the finances are more complex than the PR.

Frankly, there is astonishment among business analysts that so few players are capable of appreciating what financially fragile edifices the Premier League clubs have suddenly become.

‘The clubs just don’t have financial headroom,’ said James Barford of Enders. ‘I don’t know of many businesses who can continue to exist for long if the revenue goes to zero and no activity. Clubs are not rich in the way people are rich. ‘

It has been a month since Atletico Madrid beat Liverpool in elite football’s farewell

On Friday we will have journeyed precisely one month on from from Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid Champions League tie which brought the curtain Down on elite football and, as of Thursday night, only Southampton had formally announced a breakthrough on player pay.

‘There does not seem to be an appreciation that the party’s over here , ‘said an adviser to one top club. ‘A lot of clubs are heading out of business. Where’s the urgency? There are a lot of people sleep-walking into this. ‘

No one could possibly have anticipated this crisis. And no one could possibly have anticipated the response.

    

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