By Aristo Dotse

Never in the life of the human race has the world seen something like this as coronavirus and its related deadly disease, Covid-19, devastate the world in an unimaginable manner. As it is, the world is at its knees and at a standstill never seen or experienced before as many people all over the world have died whilst others fight for their lives.

As most parts of earth are under lock-down and people’s movements outside their homes restricted in the fight to reduce spread of the virus and disease, from which few famous persons – including some football names like former Olympique Marseille president Pape Diouf and England World Cup winner Norman Hunter – have seen their lives cut short, almost everything you can think of, including our beloved football, has grounded to a halt. As such, it has not only become the most difficult and worrying time in our lives, but also the most boring and depressing to endure.

Football becomes irrelevant; health workers are so essential

There are so many things that make mankind happy and one of the leading lights is football or soccer, the number one sport around the world. But at this abnormal time of corona virus in humanity’s history, football has unfortunately and rightly become a secondary matter, making the revered football players irrelevant, at least for now, and suggesting them as not so important after all in man’s life.

There is no doubt about the power of football and its related happiness and healing effect it provides. But as we can all imagine there are a more important group of people the world should take and treat more serious and these are the doctors, nurses, volunteers and other health professionals in this mammoth fight against coronavirus and Covid-19.

It is therefore no surprising and very inspirational that aside the UK’s brilliant idea of regularly clapping for their NHS (National Health Service) workers for their front-line sacrificial role in this Covid-19 fight in the UK, 50 former and present players, both men and women, have come together in a laudable FIFA initiative called ‘Football supports humanity’s heroes’ to hail health care workers in a special tribute. Same is the star-loaded 100-artistes music concert event, ‘One World: Together at Home’, put together few days ago by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Global Citizens movement in partnership with American singer Lady Gaga to honour the doctors, nurses, etc. and raise a whopping realising-amount of over $127 million for them. And in a country like beautiful Netherlands, health workers are being offered special bonuses in appreciation for their sacrifice.

Earlier, FIFA president Gianni Infantino had come out to emphasise the importance of health workers, stressing how less important football and for that matter players are at especially a time like this. The health professionals, correctly, are the true heroes and heroes they should be forever from now on, not only at this time. Unsurprisingly, they are justifiably receiving praise, and cash bonus like the Netherlands case, in every corner of our presently suffering world.

Too much money is spent on players

In the midst of all this, one lesson and hard truth emerging is that corona virus has brought to affirmation the idea or suggestion that there is too much money in football to the extent that it is has been misused, particularly in the area of buying players and paying them at astronomical amounts they don’t really deserve.

The last five years have seen player transfer fees and wages in football gone over the heights, with PSG’s senseless 222m Euro world record buy of Neymar from Barcelona in 2017 seriously starting a financial revolution in football that has been really difficult to sustain. And as a result, clubs are paying hugely for it, with only the big and rich clubs being able to stand up and the small clubs barely surviving, especially at a crisis time like this coronavirus pandemic.

Most or some of all these big monies used to buy players or pay them rather could have been saved or can be saved by football clubs to cater for other important things and also help pay better their non-playing staff who also deserve some good pay for all the hard work they do behind the scenes.

Also, people like the health professionals around the world are those who deserve to receive huge pays like some earned by the players. Meanwhile, most of these health workers, some of whom have painfully died in laying down their lives to help others, get meagre earnings as compared to what footballers or sportsmen get in general.

Call for players to allow pay cuts

It’s therefore no surprise at all that in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, football players have been asked to allow pay cuts to free up some monies to take care of salaries of non-playing staff. Job protection and security are bottom-lines and these are so much essential.

In the first place, why do you think footballers have been called upon to accept pay cuts? It’s all because they earn just too much and the clubs are unable to pay them in addition to paying non-playing workers at this time when there is no income for the clubs in the absence of football in the presence of the present health crisis.

“Footballers have been called upon to accept pay cuts all because they earn just too much and the clubs are unable to pay them in addition to paying non-playing workers at this time when there is no income for the clubs in the absence of football in the presence of the present health crisis.”

That is why although they received criticisms and condemnation and have since reversed their decisions, English clubs – Liverpool, still the reigning champions of Europe and the world, Tottenham Hotspur- still the second best team in Europe – and Bournemouth decided to fall on the UK government aid to help pay their non-playing workers.

In this vein it’s a shame that the millionaire Premier League players, who generally earn more than their European counterparts but seem reluctant to agree on pay cuts, failed to come to agreement on the 30% pay cut proposed by the Premier League. However, it should be noted that Arsenal players, manager Mikel Arteta, who has successfully battled Covid-19, and coaching staff have agreed a meagre 12.5 % pay cut.

Players at West Ham United, Southampton, Watford and Sheffield United in England have also decided to defer their salaries. This is quite a good move that would have been better if they had allowed pay cut, as these wages will still have to be paid by the clubs in question at the end of the day.

At the same time however, the English Premier League stars, led by Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, must be applauded for their decision to create a charity fund, ‘PlayersTogether’, to donate and contribute to the NHS to support their selfless fight in saving lives in the UK. This great initiative by the Premier League stars is a massive addition to the regular applause the NHS and its workers have been receiving from the UK public.

You cannot help but also greatly admire and commend the amazing 70% pay cut and other help given by Barcelona players to help the club pay its non-playing staff for the sake of survival. And one can even applaud better for AS Roma players and coaching staff for deciding to forgo four months’ salaries. Also commendable is the decision by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players to help the smaller clubs in the German Bundesliga to keep floating with pay cuts.

The individual likes of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Josep Guardiola, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and most recently Gareth Bale have made various colossal donations in cash and kind to help front-line health workers fight the disease, and they all, plus other sports men and women who have variously donated to help in one way or the other, deserve big praise for their compassion and kindness.

In the United States, where the virus has wrecked the most havoc, NBA players have also reasonably agreed on 25% pay cut that will run into next season. This is highly commendable.

It is therefore annoying that a group of nine players at FC Sion in Switzerland reportedly failed to agree or accept a pay cut at this torrid time, for which reason the club decided to sack them, even if it’s a harsh decision that is being contested.

Clubs feeling the heat and have to wake up

The underlying point of all this is that the clubs are suffering and really feeling the heat with no income from football in the last one month and half. For instance, some clubs in even a top country like Germany are reportedly said to be facing insolvency. Thus, the clubs have needed and requested for help of any form or from any quarters, including their own players, to be able to pay their entire employees and sustain their business.

It has now therefore become even more crucial for clubs to consider and look into the point often raised by former Arsenal manager and now FIFA football development head Arsene Wenger that players are paid too much and some don’t deserve the huge amount of monies put on their heads.

The abnormal high transfer and wage fees, unfortunately, are the other of the day now despite UEFA introducing financial fair play regulations, and it’s not for nothing that the European football’s governing body brought the financial fair play rules in the past few years to properly regulate finances in European football. The fact that you are a rich club doesn’t mean you spend money any how or just ‘waste’ money on players, some of whom waste the ‘too much’ money they are paid on useless or unimportant things.

“For future sake, it is important European clubs in particular come together and seriously take a look at the astronomical monies they spend on players, so that their non-playing workers can also receive some good or better pay and more importantly make them (clubs) more sufficient and sustainable in especially times such as this coronavirus pandemic.”

In the midst of the pandemic, talk in one or two quarters has already being made about player transfer fees for the foreseeable future, with Edward Woodward, the executive vice chairman of a big and rich club like Manchester United, already ruling out big transfer fees for any player for next season.

So for a lesson for the future, it is important football clubs in Europe in particular come together and seriously take a look at the astronomical monies they spend on players, so that their non-playing workers can also receive some good or better pay to better take care of their families and more importantly make them (clubs) more sufficient and sustainable in especially times such as this. Maybe, this can be done at the instance of the European Clubs Association (ECA), the umbrella body for European football clubs that is formally recognised by UEFA.

Credit: Soccernet Newspaper