Monday, May 27, 2024

OPINION: Liverpool furloughing staff is a kick in the teeth to loyal fans

Liverpool FC are the latest in a line of Premier League clubs to place their non-playing staff on furlough leave. With times as they are right now, is it really correct for Premier League clubs to be taking money from the government?

What happened?

Following in the footsteps of the likes of Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool yesterday placed some of their non-playing staff on furlough leave.

In case you’re unaware, the governments furlough scheme allows a business to claim up to 80% of their employees wages to help cover a potential loss of jobs during this incredibly difficult period.

The scheme was initially set up to help smaller businesses to get through this period but, as you would expect, some major corporations have taken their opportunity to save some money too.

When Mike Ashley did it with his Newcastle staff last week, he was heavily criticised. The same goes for Daniel Levy when he did it at Spurs during the week – now, Liverpool, one of the biggest and richest football clubs on the planet, have followed suit.

The full list of Premier League clubs to use the government scheme is now Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle, Norwich and Bournemouth. A Liverpool statement on the matter read:

“Even prior to the decision on staff furloughing, there was a collective commitment at senior levels of the club – on and off the pitch – with everyone working towards a solution that secures jobs for employees of the club during this unprecedented crisis.

“There is ongoing active engagement about the topic of salary deductions during the period matches are not being played to schedule. These discussions are complex and as a result the process is ongoing.”

The board at Liverpool have come in for a lot of criticism in the wake of this decision with club legend Jamie Carragher leading the charge on social media.

He tweeted: “Jurgen Klopp showed compassion for all at the start of this pandemic, senior players heavily involved in Premier League players taking wage cuts. Then all that respect and goodwill is lost – poor this, LFC.”

Why is it so significant in Liverpool?

The entire mantra of this incredible football club is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, now, in the time wherein that mantra matters most, the club have shown a selfish streak that makes a mockery of that statement.

Make no mistake, the furlough scheme is not paid for by a magic money tree, it is paid for by the tax payer. Liverpool FC are literally taking money from their own fans and citizens when the reality is that they simply do not need to do so.

The Fenway Sports Group, who are an American company, are worth somewhere in the region of $6.6 billion. As well as that, Liverpool are one of the most profitable football clubs on the planet.

They have an enormous worldwide following, are the current European champions and sit atop the Premier League. All of which leads to an incredible amount of money from television, sponsors, prize money and merchandise sales just to start with.

As well as that, it was announced two days ago that the Premier League clubs will each ask their players to take a pay cut of 30% to help save jobs at the club. Liverpool senior players have already made their mark on the relief efforts, with Jordan Henderson having set up a relief fund.

If all of the players take a 30% pay cut, which they have indicated they are willing to do, then that will pay the salaries of the non-playing staff for the next decade – why on Earth do Liverpool need the furlough scheme? Greed. And selfishness. That’s why.

The fans of Liverpool FC are the staple of the football club. As a result, the club have always been good to their fans – but this is beyond poor. This scheme is NOT designed to help Premier League clubs save a few quid, it’s designed to help save peoples entire livelihoods from disappearing.

There are thousands small businesses across this country who can’t work right now. They are losing money hand over fist and are simply unable to pay their staff. As a result, their staff cannot pay their bills or put money on the table. They are who this scheme is designed to help – not selfish billionaires.

Given that the city of Liverpool is one of the worst impacted cities in the country with COVID-19, as well as one of the lowest average income cities in the UK – they are the last club who should be doing something like this.

It’s a slap in the face to Liverpool fans. Especially after Everton announced they would not use the scheme, as did Manchester United. There’s absolutely no viable excuse for this at all. It’s pure selfishness and greed – John W Henry and his pals should be ashamed.

BBC Sport spoke to a Liverpool staff member about this, they declared that they ‘aren’t feeling like a family member right now’.

“The club call their staff their family – I’m not feeling like a family member,” said the anonymous staff member.

“Why is a club that turns over [millions of pounds] using a government scheme for its staff, when other businesses are more in need of it? I feel disappointed and I’m feeling that this government scheme could be used by businesses in trouble.”

There’s no getting away from the fact that this decision from the Liverpool board flies directly in the face of the ‘YNWA’ attitude that Liverpool fans live by. They’ve let their fans down in a major way.

This is a time to come together and support each other. Premier League owners don’t seem to want to do that. Once more, the greed of English football club owners shines through. I, and many others, are rapidly falling out of love with the Premier League. That starts and ends with the financially motivated attitude of the clubs.

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