Premier League chiefs will discuss proposals on Friday for substantial cuts to players’ wages against a backdrop of growing anger at the sport’s approach to the financial challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sky News understands that some senior figures connected to the world’s richest domestic football league want the Premier League’s 20 clubs to agree to a blanket reduction in players’ salaries of up to 25%.
Under one proposal expected to be discussed, the money would be refunded to players in full if the season is completed in front of crowds, with a smaller rebate in the event that the remaining fixtures had to be played behind closed doors.
A 25% reduction in players’ wages at clubs including Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur would, over the course of a three-month period, save hundreds of millions of pounds.
The league’s annual wage bill stands at almost £3bn, with clubs estimated to face a £750m deficit in broadcasting, matchday and sponsorship revenue as a result of the suspension of matches until at least next month, the Financial Times suggested.
The money would be forfeited altogether by English football’s biggest stars, who include the Liverpool striker Mo Salah and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, in the event that the season has to be abandoned.
One source said there was “nothing definitive” on the table and a range of options were likely to be discussed in relation to players’ wages.
If the current season would leave Premier League clubs facing a collective cash crunch because of substantial rebates that would be required to be handed back to broadcasters including Sky, the immediate parent of Sky News.
A number of top-flight clubs, including Newcastle United and Spurs, have taken advantage of the government’s emergency Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough hundreds of non-playing staff who earn a tiny fraction of their club’s most prominent employees.
Friday’s Premier League shareholder meeting has acquired a sense of urgency after the chair of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee called on the Treasury to impose a windfall tax on England’s elite clubs.
JuIian Knight told Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, it was “deeply unfair that these [non-playing] staff should take less money home while players retain their full salary”.
“This two-tier system is morally wrong, especially given the extremely high wages paid to players.”
Mr Knight also wrote to Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, to ask him “to broker an agreement between member clubs to change their approach”.
He added that he had proposed that the Treasury “pursue a means of financial redress whereby the Exchequer recoups a proportion of the money that clubs are paying to players.”
The Premier League does not set the wages of players, who are employed by the clubs, but government sources believe that Mr Masters and his colleagues need to show leadership by publicly advocating a blanket cut.
One insider said that any pay cut proposal that looked likely to achieve consensus would be put to a formal vote of the clubs.
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