Tuesday's soccer news starts with what we've learned about European soccer clubs. Any disruption to games on the schedule has even the biggest clubs struggling with how to pay the bills. That's the clear takeaway from clubs insisting on wage reductions for players under contract after a few weeks of suspended seasons. Though players unions exist in all of the major leagues in Europe, none of them operate with the kind of collective bargaining agreements considered standard in North American team sports. What that means for players is clubs deciding what is best right now.
With more than just the soccer team employing professional players, FC Barcelona has reduced wages across its sports. They did this in discussions with the club's players even though Spanish regulations allow for a unilateral wage decrease.
"Yes, I am obviously happy, right from the off I wanted it to be an agreement, not an impositio," Josep Maria Bartomeu said. "We wanted to reach an agreement because that is the best for Barca. We preferred to wait to talk it over with them and that it was not something imposed. There has been a desire to get it done from the first minute of the first day. Their agreement is a gesture that shows their commitment to the club."
That gesture is reducing player pay by 70% in part to keep the front office staff employed. It's worth the reminder that without games on the schedule no player is earning any team or individual performance bonuses during this period. Bartomeu made the lost revenue streams clear, saying, "We have no tickets sales, income from TV rights, hospitality, shops, Museum, Escoles. There has been a great decrease in revenue and we are trying to compensate with the reduction is salaries for the sportspeople, employees, including top executives and other ways of reducing costs and projects that can be put on hold."
What he's describing is the reality for clubs up and down the tables and leagues. With most things closed, there's no way to recoup the money lost. With no collective bargaining agreement, there's nothing in place league-wide outlining how to handle this type of situation. The Telegraph's Sam Wallace reports that the Premier League is looking for a standard agreement on reduced player payments. That type of quasi-collective would reign in what we're already seeing with the team-specific solutions. Spurs announced that it is reducing payments to front office workers by 20%.
"We have seen some of the biggest clubs in the world such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus take steps to reduce their costs," Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy wrote. "Yesterday, having already taken steps to reduce costs, we ourselves made the difficult decision – in order to protect jobs – to reduce the remuneration of all 550 non-playing directors and employees for April and May by 20% utilizing, where appropriate, the Government’s furlough scheme. We shall continue to review this position. We hope the current discussions between the Premier League, PFA and LMA will result in players and coaches doing their bit for the football ecosystem."
Levy also mentioned the summer transfer market and rumors of business as usual. "When I read or hear stories about player transfers this summer like nothing has happened, people need to wake up to the enormity of what is happening around us.... The club’s operations have effectively ceased, some of our fans will have lost their jobs and most will be worried about their future. Our sponsors will be concerned about their businesses and our media partners have no certainty when we may play games again or whether we will be allowed to play in front of our fans. In the meantime, the club has an annual cost base running into hundreds of millions of pounds."
That stresses the uncertain future European soccer as a business currently faces. It might be no different than other businesses, but like those industries it has its own obstacles to try to overcome. Soccer teams exist to play games. Take that away, and all of the work to turn local clubs into global brands can't make up the difference.
The NY Times' Tariq Panja has FIFA planning on using its money to help prop up the sport. SI.com's Avi Creditor considers the age issue for the rescheduled men's Olympic soccer tournament. American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta works through the USMNT central defenders.
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Logo courtesy of Barcelona