Coronavirus: Q&A with fellow Championship clubs (PART 1)
If the season had continued as normal, I wonder what would have happened last Saturday? Interestingly, there was a Football Manager simulation of how the final day may have played out. With Forest seemingly doing a typical Forest and missing a golden opportunity. We ended up finishing 3rd, 1 point of 2nd with Nuno Da Costa missing a penalty that would have seen us be promoted automatically had he have scored. I don’t think I could’ve handled my emotions if the season did end up finishing that way, imagine the anticipation, nerves, excitement and dread you would be feeling all at the same time as he stepped up to take that penalty? But imagine those ‘limbs’ if it did go in, what could have been, eh?
At this stage we still don’t know how or when the season will conclude. Will it be behind closed doors, neutral venues or voided completely? It’s also looking increasingly likely that fans won’t be able to attend games for quite some time. As a result, football has had to adapt and respond to the situation we find ourselves in. We all know what Forest have done in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, we thought it might be good to catch up with fans from fellow Championship clubs to see how they have responded. 18/23 clubs have responded and this first part asks the following questions:
- What is the current situation at your club in the wake of the suspension of football? Have staff been furloughed /players asked to defer wages. And how do you rate their response?
- Much has been made about certain clubs relying on the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to pay non-playing staff. What do you make of it?
Here is how the fans of each club responded in no particular order – hope you enjoy!
Oscar, Lets Talk Leeds – Leeds United
1. Currently as far as I know, non playing staff haven’t been furloughed and the players + coaching staff have taken wage deferrals.
2. Smaller clubs I don’t think can be judged too harshly, a club like Tottenham, however, furloughing staff and then possibly looking at spending millions in the summer are totally out of order.
Charlie – Preston North End
1. If I’ve read it right we’ve only furloughed 2 staff overall which is pretty good in fairness, everyone else is getting fully paid so we are dealing with this pretty well, I’ve been impressed with how our owners have acted upon this pandemic.
2. I don’t think any clubs should be using this really, unless your lower down the leagues! Clubs will happily go and spend 5m in the next window on a player so should be able to pay staff. If you are one of these teams they should get a transfer ban in my opinion.
Clive, Loft For Words – QPR
1. The players and coaching staff have taken 25% wage deferrals for three months and a lot of the non-playing staff have been furloughed. Captain Grant Hall and Geoff Cameron have spoken very eruditely about the situation and do seem to grasp that all these contracts aren’t worth much if there isn’t a club to come back to. We’ve got one of the best CEOs in the league who’s worked incredibly hard to turn around our financial meltdown of the Hughes/Redknapp years so you have to hope and trust he can get us through this.
2. Pretty sick, completely unsurprising, but I guess in our system looking like a cunt comes second to doing the best for your business. Their job is to snatch and grab at everything they can for Spurs, Liverpool, Bournemouth or whoever it may be. That’s business. Be interesting to see if all of this changes that general attitude. I found the political pursuit of the footballers themselves a shameless attempt to divert headlines away from the gross political failure we’re living (or not) through. Their wages are paid in this country, under PAYE, and contribute colossal amounts of money into the system by way of tax. Where was/is the same public naming and shaming of individuals and companies based offshore, paying as little tax as possible, who are coming cap in hand now for bail outs and furlough money? Morally repugnant dead cat politics to try and get the newspapers and TV to talk about “greedy footballers” rather than bodies piling up in care homes for a couple of days.
Unita 1863 – Stoke City
1. The Coates family have been fantastic in their response – all non-playing staff and players at Stoke City are being paid in full and they have donated £10 million pounds to the Royal Stoke University Hospital to aid with support – pure class from our local owners.
2. It was very disappointing to see and the backlash was justified – it was only right that those certain clubs have done a u-turn on their decision regarding furloughing staff.
Ed, Club 1871 – Reading
1. As far as I’m aware, there has been deferred payments from senior staff members such as Nigel Howe – Reading’s CEO and the Reading manager – Mark Bowen. A handful of our Under 23 squad and non-playing staff have also been furloughed. It’s a difficult one as we wouldn’t have many sources of revenue coming into the club right now and it doesn’t help we are in a lot of debt from last season. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes at Reading so don’t feel it is fair to rate their response. I’m sure they are trying to do what is best for our club.
2. Simply, non-playing staff should be paid at clubs where they can afford to get paid. If you are a small struggling club in the lower leagues of English football where you rely on a lot of match day income to keep afloat then understandably you would use the Government’s job retention scheme. Players from the higher divisions can afford to take a 5% pay cut to compensate the wages of an average non-playing staff member who needs their wage to pay the mortgage and bills.
Doug – Fulham
1. Scott Parker and some of the senior managers and directors I believe have taken a salary deferral. If staff have been furloughed they have been topped up 20% by the club. Nothing has been decided on the players yet. It would have been nice to see a response confirming this from the club rather than just snippets from news, either way whatever the club decides is in their best interests.
2. I believe it’s a great scheme, as it secures their job upon return. If the club decides to go down this route I would prefer if the players contributed the extra 20% to cover the remaining salaries of non-playing staff.
David – Huddersfield Town
1.Vast majority of none playing staff have been furloughed but Huddersfield Town are topping up wages to 100%. Board of directors and senior management have taken a two month wage deferral. Players were in talks with the EFL regarding wages but unsure of the outcome
2. The quick U-Turn by Liverpool to furlough none playing staff shows that some clubs do not need to rely on government funding but outside the top six of the premier league the vast majority of clubs will need government support and we all want our clubs to be safe so we have a football club to go back to and support.
Ben – Cardiff City
1. The stadium and car park has become a testing centre, the stadium is being used to help make PPE, the players and leadership team have agreed to a wage deferral and that money is helping the non-playing staff. Some staff have been placed on furlough but I think that’s the case for most clubs. I think the club have very much done the right thing and the players have taken wage deferrals with the minimum of fuss. Vaulks, Murphy, Pack and plenty others have also been getting involved in their local community showing that we have a good bunch of boys at the club.
2. While it doesn’t sit right with me, I can understand it. If clubs can protect their cashflow by using the scheme, of course they are going to do that. That said, a club like ours with parachute payments should be using that to help protect staff. But as our chairman has said before, these batches of money are often mortgaged before we get them and there is so much uncertainty at the moment, who knows how much money clubs actually have? We earn around 400k per match day and without that, there is less cash immediately available.
Paul – Bristol City
1. The two associated companies – Bristol City and Ashton Gate Stadium – have furloughed the vast majority of their staff and as far as we understand will not be topping up to the 100%. The entire management team have taken a voluntary 20% pay cut to fall into line. The players have agreed to defer wage payments and that’s where the sticking point seems to be. I don’t think it sits well with anyone that the 15-20 best paid people at the club get to keep their full wage, albeit delayed, whilst the majority of others are only getting 80%, many of whom will be on lowish wages already. It seems common across football though, so presumably there’s something in contracts or risk around losing players that means players aren’t taking pay cuts to help at least top up the wages.
2. I’m caught in the middle. If BP and British Airways and whoever else are allowed to use it if needed, why shouldn’t the football clubs? However, I of course totally understand the moral issue of a club that pays players £100,000 per week using Government money to cover wages elsewhere, with zero contribution. But that’s really more of a Government issue as I see it, not a club issue. I’m pleased that most of the Premier League clubs appear to have taken the ‘right’ stance by their staff and community, however.
Rick, Tiger Nation – Hull City
1. Staff have been furloughed and the players have taken a collective pay cut. The Tigers Trust have done great work in the community too.
2. I think it’s more understandable in the Championship to use the furlough scheme as we know almost all clubs make a big annual loss anyway. It does say something about the ling-term sustainability of the clubs. Lessons were clearly not learnt from the ITV Digital fiasco as chasing the golden carrot is more important than having a club that can survive economic downturn.
Rover Chat – Blackburn
1. Our club has handled it absolutely brilliantly and that’s a massive credit to everyone at the club. The players and management have all taken cuts, and there have been some staff furloughed. Also, Bradley Johnson has been using his own money for PPE (with Dexter Blackstock), Danny Graham has raised over £5,000 for a Gateshead hospital and the entire squad have made donations. Proud of the club!
2. It’s a tough situation for me. I think there’s a limit. I appreciate that League One and League Two clubs won’t last without it, but when clubs like Tottenham who made millions of profit last season use it, I feel it’s a bit of a cop out.
Billy the Bee – Brentford
1. Brentford players – led by Pontus Jansson – got together very early on and made a decision to defer their wages to help the club through this tricky period. Interestingly, from what I can gather, players who were on over £5k a week took a pay cut down to £5k a week. Meanwhile all players under £5k a week were not included in the wage deferral – meaning many of the B-team players and emerging players were not affected.
The club also sent a number of our B-team players back home. We have a number of players from abroad and the club felt it was better and safer that they were home with their families rather than sitting in the UK in rented or shared accommodation where they could be affected by the pandemic and also have mental health issues. Some non-playing staff have been furloughed. Whether the club has made up the difference in wage I cannot answer that question. The club CEO had a two hour fans Q&A on zoom last weekend where he answered all questions. His explanation was the club had worked hard to get themselves on an even keel – reporting a profit (£20m) for the first time in years in the latest filed accounts.
This for a club with one of the bottom three smallest turnovers in the Championship (£15m this year) is pretty impressive. He explained that the furloughing of staff as well as wage deferrals were necessary to get us through this tricky patch. Our owner has put in over £100m so far. But his business – like all businesses – have been seriously hit by the pandemic. He has no indention of dropping the ball. But to ensure that we are not in danger of going to the wall, we had to make certain moves.
2. This is a tricky one. The scheme is there to help keep people in jobs and businesses afloat. There are two issues here. We all know that football – on the whole – is a badly run ship. However, if you sink the ship tomorrow, businesses will go bust and many people will be out of work.
Post-coronavirus, many clubs are going to seriously have to look about how they operate their business. You can’t have clubs spending money badly. Then selling their stadium (to themselves) to cover their backs and spend even more money really badly. This pandemic – although it has been a terrible terrible tragedy – will be a wake up call for many. But this is a job for post-coronavirus.
On the flip side, where we are currently. Clubs need to do what they have to do to keep themselves operational. The scheme is there to help businesses. Businesses who (on the whole) pay tax into our system. And there’s a big difference between Brentford or even Forest’s owner furloughing staff. And Manchester City’s owner – with his infinite wealth – furloughing staff. The key to all of this is to keep the jenga puzzle intact. Once all this is over, the clubs will then have to urgently make plans as to how they survive long-term.
Joe – West Brom
1. The Albion’s response has been top draw,all staff have been furloughed with pay and the chairman and directors have taken a 100 % pay cut until it’s over.
2. No surprise for the smaller clubs to do it,but spurs and Liverpool trying it then back tracking says it all. Disgraceful.
James – Millwall
1. Millwall have furloughed staff and have kept a skeleton day-to-day non-playing staff on board. There was a lot of local press stating that they were also going to furlough players, but this hasn’t materialised and there hasn’t been any word on deferring wages either. Millwall has had a very tight budget for as long as I can remember but equally, is very well-run. So we don’t have mountains of debt, nor are we paying exorbitant wages. But also, we don’t have huge revenue streams either so I can completely understand their need to use the furlough scheme.
It’s not that they are using it because they have been reckless with spending in the past, it’s just that there simply isn’t the cash to pay staff and players (who are some of the lowest-paid in the Championship) without asking for some help. Millwall is genuinely a community-led club and have been actively assisting local causes wherever possible. They also asked their staff who were still being paid by the club and had not been furloughed, to dedicate 2 hours each day to a local good cause. I think they are shown great proactivity in seeking the right balance in their response on the whole.
2. It doesn’t quite sit right with me if a multi-million pound Premier League club is happy to pay a full £200k a week to a player and then asking the tax payer to pay 80% of the wages for the ticket office assistant who is on £18k a year. There needs to be some way of avoiding that scenario without putting the burden on the tax payer.
I think the lower down the football pyramid you go, the more I can sympathise. Players need to keep fit for a potential start of the season and if you legally can’t ask them to train without paying their wages and can’t afford to pay the rest of the staff, then there aren’t many other options without redundancies. Millwall are a good example of this situation and I can completely understand their need to furlough non-playing staff.
Adam, Swansea Beat – Swansea City
1. For us it’s been positive as our squad has agreed to take a 20% conditional wage deferral for the next three months including Steve Cooper and our Chairman Trevor Birch which Birch who has helped out with charities.
2. It’s a tough situation for clubs to balance out money while also losing it but in someways you expect the top clubs like Spurs or Newcastle to do better in my opinion.
Tyler – Birmingham City
1. Considering most headlines involving the club seems to be negative more often than not, it was refreshing to hear the positive news that Blues players [those earning over £6,000 a week] have accepted a deferral of half of their wages until June – becoming the first Championship club to do so.The board may come under a lot of stick, and rightly so for a string of contentious decisions in recent seasons, but credit where it is due for asking players to take a cut, in a bid to protect the financial future of both the club and non-playing staff. Based on the words of captain Harlee Dean, it appears most players have accepted a late payment for the rest of their wages, with only those in more difficult situations financially – be it through moving house, expecting children and so on – deciding not to accept the request, which is fair enough.
2. For the majority of clubs in the Football League, you can fully understand the reliance on financial support from the Government. It’s well-known that most sides in English football are walking on a tightrope when it comes to finances, so a crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing has all of the potential to spell disaster in the long-term – if not the short-term – for several clubs up and down the ladder. In truth, only a handful of sides in the Championship and a larger proportion of teams in the Premier League can afford to deal with the hit to income, therefore the reliance on furlough payments for non-playing staff for the rest of the English game is completely understandable. Obviously the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham have come under fire for initially using the Government scheme, and rightfully have been made to reverse their decisions, a strange move by both when you consider the healthy balances both clubs must enjoy even in the current circumstances.
Laura – Sheffield Wednesday
- We furloughed non-playing staff on 31stMar with admin staff working from home. Chansiri, our owner, has guaranteed that all staff will receive their full pay but with 80% being paid for by the government. As for the players there’s been no outwards discussion by the club about players taking a wage cut.
- I can see the argument on all sides for this. The club itself has dire financial issues despite having a multimillionaire owner. We’ve been identified as one of the Championship clubs that rely heavily on match day revenue but personally I think football has enough money to sustain all clubs in the leagues it just falls into the pockets of the wrong people. The taxpayer shouldn’t have to pay for those systemic failures.
Breathe Barnsley – Barnsley
1. We seem to be coping quite well, and as far as I’m aware the players aren’t taking a wage cut as of yet.
2. If that’s what the clubs have to resort to, then I have no problem with that. Obviously some clubs are bigger than others financially so that is the road they’ll have to go down.
Thank you to all the fans who participated, an interesting insight into how other clubs have responded and some strong personal opinions! Hopefully something to help pass the time. Part 2 will be here shortly.