With complex issues such as this, it’s important to clarify overarching objectives. Our ultimate aims are to:
- Ensure all non-playing Club staff are retained on 100% of their salaries for the coming two months
- Ensure no non-playing Club staff are made redundant over the same period
- Ensure all casual and zero hours staff are remunerated appropriately
- Ensure the Club remains financially viable
- Ensure the financial burden on the state is as minimal as possible
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19
Any discussion about financial decisions at Spurs must be taken in the context of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting business in general and football, in particular. The amount of money coming into clubs has been severely reduced. There is no matchday income. There is a good chance the TV companies will want compensation for the 40+ Premier League games yet to be televised in the 2019/20 season should those games not be played, and those companies are facing their own finance issues as advertising revenue dries up and subscribers claim refunds.
There is also a better than good chance that supporters will want monies back for the remaining games of this season should those either not take place or take place behind closed doors. Neither will many supporters be keen to commit to season tickets for a campaign that may not happen, or certainly may not start in August.
Some clubs have more money behind them than others, some clubs have more debts than others, but all are facing big reductions in income and severe cash flow restrictions. There is a very good chance some clubs could go out of business, and that will have an impact on the wider game. No club is an island.
CLARIFYING THE STAFFING SITUATION AT SPURS
There are 550 non-playing staff at Tottenham Hotspur. Roughly 60% of those, so around 330 staff, have been asked to agree to a 20% wage cut and to continue working from home for April and May. Some 40%, that’s around 220, have been asked to agree to join the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, otherwise known as being “furloughed”. They are forbidden from carrying out any work for THFC for the duration of their furlough period, which has to be for a minimum of three weeks. Under the furlough scheme, the state will pay 80% of the wages of those furloughed staff up to a total of £2,500 a month. The Club is topping up the wages of staff where 80% of their usual earnings amounts to more than £2,500 a month. None of the 550 affected staff at Spurs are earning less than 80% of their previous full wage.
The Club is continuing to pay the wages of non-furloughed staff at 80% of normal level, and is also paying the furloughed staff directly, but will claim those payments back from HMRC. The Government’s furlough scheme is currently intended to cover the months of April and May only. It is possible to recall staff from furlough at any point after an initial three-week period.
The Club’s Directors have also taken a 20% wage cut. We understand that casual and matchday-only staff are receiving payments under the furlough scheme based on projected earnings from average monthly pay packets to date.
The Club’s playing and coaching staff remain on full wages. To be clear, the contracts of these staff cannot be varied without agreement, and without the involvement of the Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers’ Association. So, reports that THFC has “chosen” not to impose wage cuts on playing and coaching staff are incorrect.
The Trust Board is urging the following actions be taken by the Board of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Broadcasters (8,9) and the Premier League (10):
- Guarantee full salaries for non-playing staff until 1 June. We don’t believe those on the lowest wages should lose a fifth of their income, so we urge the Club’s Directors to take the decision to ‘top up’ the salaries of all employees to 100%
- Guarantee that there will be no non-playing staff redundancies prior to 1 June
- Ensure that casual and zero hours staff are protected until 1 June
- Offer financial transparency to the Professional Footballers’ Association and its own players with a view to agreeing a pay deferral or rolling monthly contribution from all playing and coaching staff, commensurate with their individual financial package
- This financial transparency to also be used to decide whether recourse to the furlough scheme is necessary, through independent assessment
- Players to be consulted and notified as to which area of their Club’s business will benefit from their contributions in advance
- Owners and Directors to proportionately match the financial contributions of the players to support their own businesses
- Broadcasters to clarify the financial implications of the two remaining crisis scenarios for the 2019-20 season: failing to complete the season or playing the remaining 92 Premier League games behind closed doors
- Broadcasters to work with the PL and clubs to ensure losses caused by the suspension of football are proportionately shared amongst all affected parties
- The Premier League to establish a central hardship fund for non-playing football club staff in financial difficulties after the Government furlough scheme concludes, or from June onwards
We know hard decisions have to be taken that will affect everyone, but we also believe football has to take people with it. The game is an easy target because it flaunts its wealth. And because it has a natural aversion to explaining itself. Other private companies that make more than football clubs are using the furlough scheme. People who earn more money than footballers are not coming under the same pressure.
But reputation matters in football, not just emotionally but commercially. Football has to accept it is judged by different standards and the reality is that seemingly wealthy private institutions and individuals are cutting the wages of those less well-off and taking taxpayers’ money when there could be an alternative.
This is why we have asked the Club to explain its options and the consequences of those options far more clearly than it has. Doing so would have avoided the PR disaster of the past 10 days and, more importantly, would have been the right thing to do.
Attempting to push the players into a corner has badly backfired, at THFC and across the game. The players see an attempt to make them scapegoats and have asked what guarantee there is that any reduction in wages will not be used by clubs to boost reserves or profits. They have now launched their own initiative, #PlayersTogether, directly supporting NHS charities. We wholeheartedly support that initiative and the example it sets. We understand and support the PFA’s call for clubs to open their books. To protect commercial confidentiality, we propose this is done through an independent adjudicator.
We should emphasise again, though, that there is nothing stopping the players at THFC making a voluntary contribution, alongside the Club’s Directors, to ensure that no one at the Club loses their job or has a pay cut in the short-term.
THFC, like every other business, has to take the decisions it thinks are right to secure its future. But the nature of football means those decisions need to be understood and supported. Our worry is that, by doing what they have done in the way they have, the Board of THFC has damaged the Club’s reputation, exhausted any future goodwill they will need from fans, and affected the Club’s standing with sponsors, players and governing authorities.
This is an unprecedented situation and no one, including supporters’ organisations, will get everything right from the start. We have made this statement in good faith and remain willing to work with all parties for the best outcome. We still believe there is time for the Board of THFC to show they have listened and to do the right thing.
10 April 2020