Thursday’s soccer news starts with Premier League players not exactly embracing the idea that the league’s clubs are facing enough financial uncertainty to warrant reducing payments. A Wednesday meeting between England’s leagues and the Professional Footballers Association ended with the PFA reportedly giving advice to players and agents not to agree to league plans to reduce wages. This comes after some Premier League clubs have furloughed staff while taking advantage of government payment plans.
As expected, the response centers around the richest soccer league in the world asking for payment reductions less than a month after suspending the season. In a statement, the PFA wrote that the only decision so far is to prioritize health and safety in determining when to potentially resume the schedule. The Telegraph’s Sam Wallace Jason Burt, and John Percy look at the big picture situation for English soccer. The Daily Mail’s Matt Hughes reports on the PFA’s response to the meeting that happened after major European clubs like Barcelona and Juventus agreed with players to cut wages.
The difference in La Liga in particular is that the Spanish government allows for unilateral wage decreases of the entire salary during a state of emergency. The British government has instituted a program to pay 80% of furloughed salaries, something that has caused concern with Premier League clubs using that for staff members. The Guardian’s Paul MacInnes takes issue with that approach considering the financial position of Premier League teams. The Mirror’s John Cross explains the financial issues the Premier League and the rest of European soccer could be facing without games on the schedule to satisfy broadcasting contracts. With those TV deals the primary driver that turned the Premier League into the most valuable league in world soccer, it’s a significant concern.
Meanwhile, news broke through Yahoo’s Doug McIntyre that Major League Soccer is putting a salary reduction plan into place at the league’s office. This follows the other major North American pro sports that suspended their seasons also reducing some top level salaries at league level.
Complicating things for European clubs are the differences in national law as well as the positions of the leagues and clubs. As pundits are already too happy to point out, it’s tough to think of Premier League clubs as struggling financially this soon. The amount of money that circulates whenever the transfer market opens and the seemingly regular announcements of yet another lucrative sponsorship package or broadcast deal works against seeing the business of soccer as struggling. There’s no push for revenue sharing when things are good, with European soccer relying on what the market supports under the loose guidelines of financial fair play. Reigning in the business wasn’t a serious enough priority when things were going well to become one when the situation changed suddenly.
How much pressure this creates for the Premier League is now under negotiation with player representatives. That’s as it should be, rather than a club-by-club approach. Though it probably won’t please the clubs, it’s tough to see the Premier League in financial trouble in a moment when clubs down the divisions have critical short term economic problems to address.
We’re in a moment where we could soon see the limit of soccer’s ability to support itself across the board, even with all of those big money deals at the highest levels. It’s also an extreme example of an issue with how pro sports work in Europe and Britain without explicit revenue sharing through collective bargaining. Insist on that as part of these discussions for reducing player pay and see if the club owners and league officials still think this is the way forward for their business.
Also in the soccer news, Belgium’s Pro League became the first European league to announce that its 2019-20 season has ended. Ethan Horvath’s Club Brugge wins the championship with the season suspended with one game remaining before the start of Belgium’s playoff system. The decision becomes official on April 15.
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