A global pandemic, and the Premier League, the PFA and others have decided to fight over wage cuts. But this could be an opportunity for something much bigger for the players. In this week’s edition of ‘Truthful Tuesday’, we say that the players need to take a pay cut for the greater good.
Player power is not a thing of the past. Even in this day of billionaire owners and clubs earning far too much money, player power is a massive, massive thing. It’s effectively the only thing in play, off the football field, and more importantly, it’s what football clubs across the world kill for. But while that is not always a good thing, in a global crisis fuelled by a global pandemic, it does have its use which Jordan Henderson and co proved.
But amidst the chaos that has been negotiating and organising a league-wide pay cut in the Premier League, the world has split right down the middle on this matter. There’s no third or fourth group but just two and somehow those two have managed to get themselves a lot of power wielding their media powered swords. More importantly, however, while both the Premier League and the PFA have handled the situation badly, there is a way to solve this because shockingly there is option number three.
At the moment, FIFA’s decision over contracts expiring at the end of June is to ‘allow’ clubs to extend said deals beyond that until the season ends. That includes loan deals as well but there is no rule or law that forces clubs, especially in England, to do that. It’s something that the clubs have to be willing to do, or so says FIFA. Not only that, their statement further asked players and clubs to work together, which causes even more problems because so far that hasn’t worked.
Things became even more problematic when Toby Alderwerield’s agent asked for parity and equality in any negotiation but he also asked for more. Stijn Francis, the agent, asked clubs that if they “insist on a wage reduction” then players “should be put in the same situation as any regular worker. Clubs reducing their players’ wages should accept that the players can terminate their employment for free and these clubs should no longer be able to ask a transfer fee if the player would like to leave.”
Somehow during all this, footballers became the target. These high earning players, who do nothing but show-off their millions and millions that they earn for doing nothing but kicking a ball. It’s irked a few across the world and in England with them hitting out at the easiest targets possible. Not the clubs, or their billionaire owners but instead the footballers. Why? They’re the face of the company and in the end, they’re both the heroes and the villains of this story. That’s bloody wrong because it’s not fair, in any way shape or form, to call them money hungry fools because they’re far from that.
But that’s the media perception right now and while it may seem like it means absolutely nothing in times that are terrifying, somehow, it’s turned out to be catharsis for a few. Who knew focusing on someone else being portrayed as doing something bad would help get over your own problems? It’s worked like a charm and that has seen values drop radically. Not market values, although that is happening, but player values. What they offer to a club in terms of pure PR and fan value is dropping and for anyone even remotely interested in moving elsewhere, that’s not good news.
Take Mesut Ozil for example. The leaked news that the German was one of three, unnamed, players to refuse Arsenal’s offer of a pay cut saw every Tom, Dick and Harry walk out and offer their opinion on the player. Now this is Mesut Ozil, sure the man earns £350k a week but the amount he does for charity and the less fortunate probably overshadows what a lot of others do. And yet while there were many who came out fighting for the midfielder, there were many that fought against him and fuelled the perception that he’s doing more than looking for another payday.
Now imagine he has to leave Arsenal for another league, given the way this was reported, the only thing people would have heard about him was his terrible attitude during a terrible time. Effectively what this media-storm has created is make players look like they don’t care one itsy bitsy teenie weenie bit about their fellow men and women who are suffering right now which is definitely not what many footballers need, especially not in what is a crucial contract year. And not what anyone needs especially in the age of social media and the internet. It’s a cliched saying but things really do live forever on the web and that is something nobody needs.
That has effectively led to a domino effect that will eventually someway or another hurt the players, not the clubs. Because in this day and age, with booming youth academies across the leagues, clubs could be able to afford to replace them. 'Could' being the keyword in that sentence with the COVID-19 pandemic effectively bringing a lot of clubs down to their knees. No more £100 million transfers, no more £500k per week wages and so on. This is where player power comes into play. Because the players have the power and yet everywhere except England, they've put to great use.
Spain has seen Barcelona and Lionel Messi take 70% pay cuts although they did it in an equally chaotic way. Cristiano Ronaldo is the Serie A’s top earner by a shocking amount and yet for the next four months he will earn absolutely nothing. The same applies to Bundesliga sides with a large portion of them taking various levels of pay cuts. Now fighting against billionaire owners and urging the Premier League to help lower leagues survive is a brilliant move. The fact that no other league has thought about it makes it an even better one but not if it comes at a cost of the future of their careers.
There is a sense of belonging in the statement released by the PFA rejecting the 30% wage cut but there was also a sense that it’s a war between league and player’s association. That one doesn’t trust the other and both are willing to throw the players under the bus to get what they need. It’s a terrible situation the players have been put in and given the way both the Premier League and the PFA are acting, things have to change. And that’s where player power strides in confidently, like Elvis Presley in a fedora.
Style, power and panache all wrapped into one single entity which essentially means, it’s time for the players to take action. How? By agreeing to a pay cut. Not the 30% that the league wants but a reasonable figure. Maybe based on how much each player earns much like what the French league are doing. Because Jordan Henderson and the rest of the Premier League’s captains have made the right move by announcing the ‘Players Together' fund. But there has to be more or else, at the end of all this in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, once a cure/vaccine is found, the footballing world will only remember one thing.
That the Premier League players refused to take a pay cut. That they let their clubs bleed out while earning boatloads of money while doing absolutely nothing to help a world in pain. Why not change that and effectively create a wall of goodwill between them and the rest of the world? Why not in one fell swoop transform their careers, reputations and even move some of that hatred aimed against them to the ones that actually deserve it? And if along the way they prove that their world doesn’t operate in a “moral vacuum” then they curry some favour. And everybody needs a favour.