By Aristo Dotse
Never in the life of the human race has the world seen something like this as corona virus and its related deadly disease, Covid-19, devastate the world in an unimaginable manner. As it is, the world is at its knees never seen or experienced before as many people all over the world have died whilst others fight for their lives.
As most parts of the world, until only a couple of weeks ago, were under lock-downs for some good amount of time and people’s movements outside their homes restricted in the fight to reduce spread of the virus, 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 that has gradually returned partially, was grounded to a halt. As such, it’s still the most difficult and worrying time in our lives.
Football becomes irrelevant; health workers 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 coronavirus in humanity’s history, football, unfortunately, has rightly become or became a secondary matter, making the revered football players irrelevant, at least for a while, 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 the 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 seriously and these are the doctors, nurses, volunteers and other health professionals in the 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 Britain, 50 former and present players, both men and women, came together in a laudable FIFA initiative called ‘Football supports humanity’s heroes’ to hail health care workers in a special tribute.
Earlier, FIFA president Gianni Infantino had come out to emphasise on 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. Also to be hailed is the star-loaded 100-artistes music concert event, ‘One World: Together at Home’, put together at the early peak-stage of Covid-19 in April 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.
Similarly, 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 were receiving from people in the UK.
Too much money is spent on players
In the midst of all this corona virus or Covid-19 pandemic, one lesson and hard truth it has affirmed is 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 past 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 Brazilian 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 in general get.
Call for players to allow pay cuts
It’s therefore no surprise at all that in the midst of this corona virus 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 but have since reversed their decisions, English clubs – Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur 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. And also is the news that a group of nine players at FC Sion in Switzerland reportedly failed to agree or accept pay cut at this torrid time, for which reason the club decided to sack them, even if it was a harsh decision that is said would be challenged.
However, it should be noted that Arsenal players, manager Mikel Arteta, who successfully battled Covid-19, and coaching staff agreed some pay cut, while players at West Ham United, Southampton, Watford, Sheffield United and very recently Everton have decided to defer their salaries.
Like in the case of Everton, whose players and manager’s deferral of three months’ salaries have helped a lot in ensuring all club staff have been fully paid and maintained in employment in this era of corona virus, the wages deferrals have been very welcomed by the clubs and all. But it would have been better if the players and managers had instead allowed pay cut, as these deferred wages will still have to be paid by the clubs in question at the end of the day.
That is why 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 pay cut decision by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players to help the smaller clubs in the German Bundesliga.
The individual likes of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Josep Guardiola, Cristiano Ronaldo, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and most recently Gareth Bale, and even non-football personalities like tennis superstars Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, have made various colossal donations in cash and kind to help front-line health workers fight the disease. All of them, 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.
Also deserving praise are the NBA players in the United States, where the virus has wrecked the most havoc, who reasonably agreed on 25% pay cut that will run into next season.
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 almost three months. For instance, some clubs in even a top country like Germany were 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 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 corona virus 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, having already ruled out big transfer fees for any player for next season.
Former Netherlands captain and 1987 Ballon d’Or winner as European Footballer of the Year Ruud Gullit, who ended his glittering playing career in the late 1990s as player-manager at Chelsea where he is credited with starting the foreign revolution that has made the English Premier League the toast of the world for some good time now, also very recently made a telling suggestion, pointing out the need and how important it is for clubs to cut down on excessive expenditure on players.
“This (coronavirus pandemic) should be a wake-up call and all the clubs have to think about managing themselves in different ways now. The problem in England, for me, is that there are players here who earn way too much money, who are nowhere near good enough to do that. If the big stars earn the big money, that is OK. But I see players who are not even close,” he told the BBC. “Money changed the Premier League in lots of good ways but, if this blip (pandemic) happens again, then a lot of clubs are going to be bankrupt if they continue doing what they are doing now, and spending the amount they do. They have to be careful, and they may have to change their model again.”
“This should be a wake-up call and all the clubs have to think about managing themselves in different ways now. The problem in England, for me, is that there are players here who earn way too much money, who are nowhere near good enough to do that. If the big stars earn the big money, that is OK. But I see players who are not even close.” – Ruud Gullit
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.
Note: This is an updated version of the one published in May 2020 by the same writer
Credit: Soccernet Newspaper