The current climate is difficult for football clubs. Social distancing has put tremendous strain on a system of billionaires that supports millionaires. At the lower rungs of the game, finances are on a precipice. Some operations might not come back from a prolonged hibernation.
… but this is just football.
At the top of the game, though revenue forecasts are bleak, there are plenty of levers megaclubs can pull. Factor in the value of elite-level football, at the very worst, you know a huge TV deal will drop care packages when the game comes back on track.
The real crisis is with the people. Millions look set to lose their jobs. Plenty will drop down to part-time levels. Others are facing the nightmare of prolonged furloughs. Small businesses are weighing up whether their future is a viable one as banks attempt to gouge them with disgraceful interest rates.
… people are also sick and dying.
The picture I’m painting here should set the tone for elite-level football clubs. Their main priority right now should be doing right by the community. Don’t give anyone an opportunity to say you took advantage of the situation. Don’t do anything that looks greedy.
So what did Spurs Chairman do? He gave 550 employees a 20% hair cut on their salaries, potentially taking advantage of up to £2m a month in government furlough cash. To make matters worse, Spurs owner is a tax exile.
To make matters worse, he didn’t cut the salaries of the players or the management team. Can you believe that? He took from the not so well off and kept his talent going at 100%. An unbelievably bad look for a club that looks to imbue community values.
I saw someone rallying against publications that tell you how many NHS things can be bought with the salaries of footballers yesterday. Apparently, this is the latest thing to get angry about, because it’s an attack on working-class who found the holy grail of social mobility. Fuck right off. Footballers are no more working-class than Leonardo Dicaprio. They are just as disconnected from reality as the blue-chip CEOs of Wall Street. Nothing clarified that more for me than listening to Harry Kane, mid-global pandemic, telling the world he might leave Spurs.
I’m not sure what my point was? Oh yes. Where the fuck is the leadership from the Premier League players at this moment? The UK citizens are making HUGE sacrifices in the name of national health and our players are twiddling their thumbs?
Where is our Lio Messi? I know he’s one of the wealthiest athletes on the planet, but not only did he take a 70% pay cut, he demanded that Barcelona pay the non-sport staff their full package. I love that. It shows some awareness, some empathy, and some much needed common sense in sport. Elite level clubs should not be dipping into Government funds at the minute, that bailout money isn’t for orgs that can afford to pay over 50 of their staff £500k+ a year.
The players in the UK should take this opportunity to reconnect with reality for 3 months. Help fund the little guys. The big clubs should help support the little clubs like they’re doing in Germany. This from The Guardian.
Dortmund said the four clubs, who participated in the Champions League this season, will forego their share of the national media revenue – approximately €12.5m – and add €7.5m of their own.
“We are prepared to help out other professional football clubs if it is ultimately a matter of cushioning the financial effects of the pandemic,” Dortmund’s CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke
The German system is far more egalitarian. Fan ownership is more prominent, tickets are more about the experience than the profit, and I think clubs are far more socially responsible. It also helps that most of the owners, even when it’s a brand, are German. That means there should, at least in theory, there should be similar cultural values and norms. If there is a cultural thread that connects you, you are more likely to behave like a collective and support other clubs in times of need.
In the UK we have a collection of billionaires all working for different means. Abu Dhabi, America, Russia, Uzbekistan… coming together for the greater good? Those are 4 very different cultures with wildly different visions of morality and ethics. Can we ever structure our game like the Germans? I think that horse has bolted, which is unfortunate.
Pulling this back home, someone needs to take a lead. The last thing footballers and clubs need to do in this environment is repulse the fans with greedy behaviour. We need to see swift action and a united front that sees an action comparable to the nations sacrifice.
This is a chance for beloved community beacons to show the world that football is still about the people, let’s hope Arsenal continue to shine, and let’s hope Spurs are shamed into rectifying their disgraceful moves of the last day.
P.S. I banged out a podcast with Nigel Phillips of the AST. He’s an expert on football finance and sits in the same block I do when I’m back in the UK. Take a listen and join the AST if you get the chance.