Graeme Souness and Gary Neville assess potential coronavirus financial impact on player wages

Souness on wage drop for 'good, not great, players'; Neville on lower league player prospects

general view inside the empty stadium prior to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Liverpool FC and Atletico Madrid at Anfield on March 11, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. 2:44
Graeme Souness believes the coronavirus pandemic will transform the pay scale for footballers in England, while Gary Neville adds it will be the players in the lower leagues who will be hardest hit

Graeme Souness believes the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will be a "wake up call for football" and that we are set to see a "major, major correction" in player wages as clubs try to cope with the economic hit.

Football in England is suspended indefinitely due to the virus and with a report in Wednesday's Times newspaper suggesting the game may not be played in front of fans until a vaccine is found - which could take over a year - Souness expects big changes to happen to the sport.

While the absolute elite players may still be able to command huge wages in the future, Sky Sports pundit Souness says the majority will find themselves less well paid than they have been in recent years.

"I think we're staring down both barrels with this," he told The Football Show. "Until they find a vaccine, until they can allow mass gatherings of 50,000 people going back to football, there's going to be a major, major correction from what has been the absolute glory times in terms of what you can earn as a footballer.

"The top men will still get paid the ridiculous amounts they get paid. But you've got a middle group of players that have been on totally outrageous wages, given the qualities they have to offer. That's the area that you're going to see the most correction.

"I think going forward it is going to be very difficult for clubs to offer these good players - not great players - the kind of wages that they've been on for the last five-10 years.

"I think it's a wake-up call for football. I hope I'm wrong. But I think it's going to be an enormous wake up call for everyone outside the top six clubs in our country."

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While middle-bracket Premier League players could see their income drop, Gary Neville believes the players most at threat from the financial downturn the virus could cause will be the players in the lower leagues.

With many players set to be out of contract at the end of June, the future for a large percentage of players in the Championship, League One and League Two is far from certain - and it could be many drop out of the game.

"We absolutely are [going to see players at the bottom end dropping out of the game]," said Sky Sports pundit Neville. "It's just an inevitability.

The reality is the players at the lower end, who may be on a few hundred pounds per week, who have got seven or eight year careers, are the ones who are going to suffer.
Gary Neville

"What Graeme is talking about is right, the players at the top will get the top, the players below that will come down and accept less money, but over 50 per cent of the players at League One and League Two are out of contract in eight weeks. That's a scary statistic.

"These clubs have not got the money to recycle them back into the game for next season because they're not going to have any sight of income from football matches.

"The reality is the players at the lower end, who may be on a few hundred pounds per week, who have got seven or eight year careers, are the ones who are going to suffer.

"It will just cascade down like a waterfall. It's going to be a shock for the whole of football. People will say it's always been coming, that this virus will bring opportunity for some, what I will say is ultimately it will be the players at the lower of the game that will suffer most. The ones who have never earned anywhere near £1,000 per week, let alone £200,000 per week."

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