The scandal of rich Premier League football clubs trying to take advantage of the government’s job retention scheme is reaching boiling point.
Some of the richest businesses in the country, Premier League football clubs, have furloughed their non-playing staff and now have the bare-faced cheek to ask the government for help. They are demanding our taxpayer money, cash which should be going to the NHS.
The club most in the firing line right now is Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs is a club with an owner worth £4 billion. Its chairman, Daniel Levy, was paid £7 million last year. He has a first team squad earning, on average, £70,000 per week, but he has furloughed the club’s 550 non-playing staff and has the gall to try to take advantage of a public scheme designed to help those most in need.
Lat year, Spurs posted a pre-tax profit of £70 million on revenue of £460 million, the highest in the Premier League, above Liverpool (£47 million) and Manchester United (£27 million). And in an act of breath-taking insensitivity, it was reported last week that Spurs player, Deli Alli, has just splashed out £250,000 on a new Rolls Royce.
It’s a similar story at Newcastle United, owned by Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley, a man for whom shame appears to be an alien concept.
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Norwich and Bournemouth are also among The Premier League offenders, although in Bournemouth’s defence, several executives and manager Eddie Howe have taken voluntary pay cuts.
Brighton’s manager, Graham Potter, has also taken a voluntary pay cut.
At Thursday’s government press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued a clear message:
“Given the sacrifices people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS who have made the ultimate sacrifice and gone to work and caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also weighed into the row
“ Highly paid football players should be the first ones to sacrifice their salaries rather than the person selling programmes or the person who does the catering”, he said.
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull, who chairs the DCMS committee, is even more furious:
“This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its centre”, he said. “It’s not designed to allow them to continue to pay people hundreds of thousands of pounds while at the same time furloughing staff on hundreds of pounds.”
Knight added: “Football needs to take a long, hard look at itself”.
And this came from former football manager Harry Redknapp: “Clubs shouldn’t be taking government money…I thought this government scheme was a way of helping businesses who couldn’t afford to keep their staff on. I didn’t think it was for the use of top Premier League clubs.”
Compare and contrast with what is happening elsewhere in Europe. At Barcelona, Lionel Messi and Co have taken a 70% (yes, you read that correctly – seventy per cent) pay cut to ensure non-playing staff continue to receive their full wages.
Players at Germany’s two biggest clubs, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, have taken similar action. Other clubs are paying for local community schemes to help those less well off.
Back home, in Britain, Scottish Club Hearts have set a shining example. The club’s players, who are paid far less than the Premier League stars, took pay cuts two weeks ago.
My club (hands up, vested interest), Arsenal, have given £150,000 so far to local charities, which is a nice gesture but nowhere near enough. It is also providing transport and facilities to the NHS, and is continuing to pay all its staff, at least for now.
Elsewhere though, the money men of The Beautiful Game appear morally bankrupt, and are acting with grubby and indecent greed.