The Professional Footballers’ Association called on Wednesday (March 25) for urgent talks with the Premier League and the English Football League (EFL) over the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on players and clubs.
Football in England has been suspended until at least April 30 and the lay-off could last much longer as Britain braces itself for a surge in cases of Covid-19.
The loss of match-day revenue has hit clubs hard, particularly in the three divisions below the Premier League, and raised the prospect of clubs asking players to accept wage deferrals.
According to reports, Birmingham have become the first Championship team to do so, seeking approval from players earning more than £6,000 (S$10,000) a week to take a temporary 50 per cent cut.
“As with other industries, the current Covid-19 crisis is having a severe impact on the finances of the game,” said a PFA statement.
“Several clubs have already approached players with a view to imposing pay deferrals.
“In order to deal with this situation, we have called for an urgent meeting with both the Premier League and the EFL.”
Players at Bayern Munich and other German clubs have reportedly agreed to take pay cuts.
“Under the right circumstances and with suitable reassurances, mechanisms like wage deferrals are something that might have to come on to the table; certainly, it’s up there for discussion,” PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes told The Athletic earlier this week.
Even when football returns, matches could initially be played behind closed doors to reduce the impact on medical services.
Doing so would help to ease the financial crisis at the top end of the game, with Premier League clubs reportedly facing a £762 million payout to broadcasters if the season cannot be completed.
“In an ideal world we would be playing in front of crowds. But we’re not in an ideal world and certainly, the players I’ve spoken to accept that if that is what’s going to be, that’s what it will have to be,” said Barnes.
“Football is about fans. But the reality is that for the vast majority of the players, particularly at the highest level, their income is funded by television money and there are contracts that have to be adhered to.”