Sky Sports pundits discuss pay cuts for players, clubs furloughing staff and what more football could during pandemic...
Wednesday 8 April 2020 11:58, UK
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes the Premier League and the game of football itself has missed a big opportunity to set the tone during the coronavirus pandemic, and says the handling has been "a mess".
Neville's comments come after a week when Premier League players came under increasing political pressure to take a pay cut.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has controversially called on Premier League players to "take a pay cut and play their part".
The Premier League's 20 clubs met on Friday, when they unanimously agreed to consult their players over a "combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration".
Neville feels the situation is becoming increasingly problematic and criticised the way the Premier League handled Friday's news in advising a 30 per cent pay cut.
"I think football should have dealt with this a lot quicker. Jamie and I did a programme a couple weeks ago to say that football has an opportunity to set the tone. Football is such an important part of life, an important part of what England transport around the world, billions watch it.
"There was a strong chance that if football set the tone, others would follow and do the right thing. I think what we saw at the end of last week was the start of an unsavoury episode over the weekend."
Speaking in a special programme broadcast live on the Sky Sports Football Youtube channel, Neville continued: "The first thing I'd say is players do want to contribute to the NHS, to the lower leagues, to the non-playing staff, to ensure that their money does go somewhere that is helpful to the people they want to support.
"If you want to bring people on a journey with you, to take a wage cut, you have to land that softly. Trying to bully them by announcing it mid-afternoon Friday and calling them to a meeting on the Saturday with their manager and owners is probably not the best way to land the blow as hard as that would have been, to the players."
Neville later added: "I do think the way it has been handled from day one has been a mess, I don't think it's been quick enough and ultimately it shows the lack of leadership we have at the moment to come together to capture the mood of the country."
Neville also added that football should have led by example early during the pandemic, and insists that the sport should be judged differently due to its influence around the world.
"Football will be judged, we want it to be judged differently, because the power that it has to influence people is enormous. Those players, those badges, are steeped in history. It means so much to everyone around the world.
"The idea that we don't want football to be judged differently? We do want football to be judged differently. There's an opportunity here for football to do an amazing thing.
"What we saw on Friday afternoon was a collaboration of maybe a couple of weeks, but then I thought the Premier League went solo. They didn't increase the funding for the EFL and non-league, they advanced money but didn't give extra funding which those clubs so desperately need. They gave a £20m fund to a good cause, which I think is welcome but I think it could have been more. They asked players for a 30 per cent pay cut, which equated to around £550m.
"I think there was an opportunity for the Premier League to stand tall and do a number of things. One was to distribute to a good cause quickly. Second was to increase funding for EFL and non-league. Another was to go to the players and have meaningful discussions with the captains of the clubs for how they could work together to support not just the local cause but the national cause, and nobody has been able to bring together football, a leader to bring together football in this time to find the right decision."
Fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher sees logistical difficulties with a blanket 30 per cent pay cut across the Premier League, due to the differing finances of clubs at the top and bottom of the division.
Carragher feels it is not unreasonable for money from a potential wage cut to go back into that players' club, but that it should be done on a case-by-case basis, with some clubs potentially struggling more than others in future.
"It seems to have come out of the PFA meeting that the players are upset that they would have to lose some of the money and that the money would go in essence back to the clubs. I don't agree with that, I think the money should, in some ways, go back there.
"You've got to think: how do players get paid? Money from TV, money from the turnstile, and probably advertising money. All of those revenue streams have stopped for football clubs. The wages players get now, some nearly £200k, £300k a week, and good luck to them for everything they get, but I don't believe that football clubs and football owners actually make hundreds of millions each season.
"We see that in their accounts, a lot of them break even or lose money. I don't think it's too much to ask for players to maybe defer some wages for a later time. I'd ask them to actually contribute a little bit to the club.
"There's no way the Premier League as one are going to come together and agree on it. Every club is in a different position. There's no way owners at the bottom of this division can afford to just be handing out hundreds of thousands to players each week.
"I'm not saying it has to be 30 per cent, but I think every club's situation is different, and they as a club have to get together. Forget the conference calls, or captains of each team getting together, that's not going to work, it has to be your own players at your own clubs."
Carragher also views the current situation as a big opportunity for football to do good for society, and agrees with Neville that the current discord doesn't feel right.
The former Liverpool defender also insists that solidarity within the football world is key, and that bigger clubs should be striving to ensure lower-league clubs survive.
"I think Premier League footballers have got a great opportunity here to do something good for the greater good of the country, and whether you like or not, people look to footballers.
"They've got an opportunity, everyone is in a different financial situation, to put something out there to show the nation, the world. Each club has to be individual, but it is a great opportunity. Yes, footballers have taken stick, but now they have a great opportunity, and one they need to take.
"Whether it's Gordon Taylor up against the Premier League, or them against the FA, or against the clubs, it doesn't look right. I know it's not easy, but this needs a resolution in the next week or so, because the longer it prolongs the more it will be: 'Greedy footballers don't want to pay any money.'
"[Solidarity] is the most important thing, we've already lost Bury, a team close to Gary's heart. I spoke to Ryan Lowe at Plymouth today; the problem with the Premier League and the furlough situation is that actually you don't just accept it, it's actually a necessity for a lot of the clubs, maybe even with the players as well. You don't want to see clubs go bust.
"That has to be a necessity in the Premier League, and that's why I have no time for any club who put any of their staff on furlough - I know some of them are struggling - but I think that should be paid, and it should again, going back to the players, if they can help in situations.
"I don't even think Premier League players will want to stop or not help teams lower down. A lot of these players have come from these decisions and may manage them in the future."