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Views before the U-turn
I don’t want to come across as tribal, I don’t want to engage in Whatabouttery, and I don’t want to come across as defending Liverpool FC/its owners’ actions. I wish that the club I support had decided against using the UK Government’s furlough scheme (“Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” / CJRS). I still hope that they decide to change their mind, in light of the reaction. However, the vitriolic rage pointed at the club/its owners is excessive and quite frankly depressing.
First, it is clearly not fair to lump LFC in alongside Tottenham, Newcastle, Brighton and any other club which is not topping-up the CJRS with the employees’ salaries’ remaining 20%. If you don’t make this differentiation, you are getting the facts wrong, and you are also failing to help put pressure on those other clubs to follow suit and also contribute the remaining 20%. If it doesn’t matter to you whether thousands of football clubs employees receive 80% or 100% of their salaries over the next 3 months, I’d ask yourself why not.
Second, everyone is in total agreement that it seems like the CJRS is not intended for Premier League football clubs, and that it should not be used in this way. But if the UK Government do not intend for CJRS to be used by Premier League football clubs, or any football clubs, or any companies with 200 million+ in revenue, or 25+ employees earning more than 1 million pounds per year, it is for the Government to specify that. Instead, the Government’s only statement seems to be that CJRS “is for all UK employers with a PAYE scheme”.
This is not about deflecting blame or defending Liverpool/other clubs. This is about designing laws, regulations and systems which actually work and provide the outcomes desired by society/the Government. This attitude we have seen in the media and the last 3-4 F365 mailboxes is absolutely batsh*t crazy. The attitude of, “we won’t put any rules or controls in place, but we will jump up and down in anger if businesses don’t voluntarily elect to do the right thing”. It is an entirely ineffective way to govern/manage a country/business.
We are all aware of these clubs using the CJRS, but there are thousands of absurd businesses across the country who will be making the same decision. Some of them will be companies with 25+ directors on million-pounds-per-year salaries. Some of them will be companies who are paying millions of pounds in rent for a storefront on Knightsbridge or Oxford Circus which they in-no-way need, but have availed for prestige reasons. Some of them will be companies who engineer ways to pay the absolute bare minimum of tax contributions to the Government they are now trying to lean on. To repeat, the reason I am mentioning this is NOT Whatabouttery, I am not saying “other companies do it, therefore Liverpool/PL clubs should do it too” nor “other companies do it, therefore you can’t be angry at Liverpool/PL clubs” – I am saying that the root cause of the problem is a failure of governance and crisis management, and that focusing on governance is the pragmatic and effective response, whereas aiming opprobrium at one immoral business at a time is a really inefficient use of energy, focus and time.
It’s really sad, and distressing, how easily manipulated many of you seem to be, how your ire can be laser-focused against football clubs (among other targets), to the point of losing any semblance of rationality or reason. In the last few mailboxes, people have literally written in dismissing entirely valid coherent considerations, as if they are bullsh*t excuses. “Liverpool employees will get their full salaries? Who cares!” “The Government is incompetent and should be preventing this from happening? Pffft, f**k off!” “Cutting PL players’ wages by 500m would result in 200m less in taxes being collected? What the f**k does that have to do with anything?!” “The PL players are working behind the scenes on a proposal to help the NHS? Sod that, if they haven’t announced anything yet, I’m clearly right to judge them for it!” – All of the above are important considerations when taking a reasoned, considered, nuanced approach to the subject of how to proceed. But hey, if you prefer to just get angry and yell at clouds about it, by all means go ahead.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
PS: OK, please allow me one teeny tiny moment of Whatabouttery: Brighton & Hove Albion supporter Julian Durand going out of his way to criticise Liverpool and Tottenham’s owners when his own club is in the same boat was very funny. Sad and illustrative of the points I made above (easily manipulated, failure to identify root cause, getting the facts wrong), but also very funny.
…I’m actually a bit confused by mailbox entries from Ferg, Cork and Mark (Now I know what “This means more” actually means. Greed.). MCFC. Why is it so morally wrong or reprehensible that Liverpool have furloughed staff and taken advantage of the government scheme?
Is it because they made a profit in the last financial year? If that’s the case – are McDonalds also morally wrong to be furloughing staff? McDonalds made 10x the amount of profit Liverpool that did. The CEO of McDonalds made approximately £15m in 2017 so his salary is not wildly different from a premier league footballer if that’s where the issue arises. They’ll have a variety of senior management earning pretty big bucks.
Liverpool did make £40m of profit…they also paid around £8m in corporation tax in the UK. That means they made a contribution which the NHS/Unemployed people etc are all benefitting from. Is Mark equally disgusted that his own club made £20m of profit over two years but paid £0 in corporation tax? That would mean that alongside receiving a stadium free of charge which the government spent around £500m to build the club are giving zero back to the UK society it massively benefits from being a part of. COVID-19 has brought this under the spotlight but I’d love to know if he paid any attention at all to the fact that Man City are using tax accountants to avoid paying any tax in the UK. I am more disgusted by that because it means they are wilfully avoiding paying anything back to society and aren’t just doing so this year – that is something they will probably do every single year.
Or perhaps it’s just profit as a concept that you both find morally wrong? I am genuinely keen to understand and would be pleased if you wrote back to explain it.
For what it’s worth the thing I find disgusting is a disconnect between profit and taxation. Lots of companies (and individuals) benefit from being in the UK for a variety of reasons, be it property rights, rule of law, freedom of choice or a million other reasons. But lots of those companies (Amazon/Facebook/Starbucks/MCFC/MUFC) spend millions of pounds on tax accountants who help them shift things around until their tax requirement is minimised. Liverpool made a profit, paid their share of tax and are now also taking back from the system they pay into – what is so awful about this? Next year this will all be over and Liverpool will probably make a profit again and once again pay its fair share of tax. The companies listed above will probably continue to actively avoid paying any tax which means the NHS and society as a whole loses out permanently because of those companies. Those companies undoubtedly benefit from trading in the UK so should be paying for the benefits they accrue but instead they are bending the rules to their advantage. The difference between them and Liverpool is that they have been doing this for a long time and will continue to do so unless tax laws change – surely you can see this is much worse and far more troubling for society as a whole?
I don’t mind if a company makes a load of money, pays a load of tax and then takes part in the system and extracts what benefits it can. Mark thinks this is the most morally repugnant thing in modern football….did he miss when countries starting buying football clubs to clean up their reputation for making political dissidents disappear or abusing journalists? Or maybe it’s easier to turn a blind eye to that because of the colour of the shirt in which it takes place. And if you want to accuse me of whatabouttery then at the very least explain why consistently dodging tax is less awful than furloughing staff. Perhaps Liverpool should cancel their furlough (which will apparently cost the government £1m if it lasts for three months) and spend the next two years using tax accountants to dodge tax instead like Man City (worth £16m to LFC based on the tax paid this year)?
Waiting on Liverpool’s next move
I watched with head shaking to the news that some of our biggest football brands had decided to save some pennies at the expense of their lowest paid and more vulnerable staff. The backlash should have been predictable and is justified in my opinion.
There seems to now be much rejoicing that Liverpool has realised they have stepped in a dog turd and have been walking on your sheepskin rung ever since. However, being old, cynical and used to management-speak, let’s break down what they have actually said.
The first 6 paragraphs are explaining why they did it and the final 6 paragraphs explain why they had to do it. All of those reveal the usual cold calculus of accountancy in all its dehumanising glory.
It is the middle paragraphs (the “how we will fix this unholy mess of our own making”) that I want to focus on:
“We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that.
Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period.
We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme.”
But the last paragraph is the most important. “We are committed to finding ways . . .”
In summary, they don’t know yet what they will do. So let’s hold off whatever backslapping they are due until they actually commit to a course of action, not just “finding an alternative way”.
If I was really cynical I would suspect this was all just a smokescreen to allow the furor to die down before quietly reintroducing exactly the same scheme they clearly decided was best in the first place.
We shall see. And I hope I am wrong.
Firstly, well done to LFC for listening to their own supporters and acknowledging they’d cocked up. It still leaves a bad taste that they made the mistake in the first place, but at least they listened and got to the right answer eventually. And well done to Spirit of Shankly for holding the club to account on an issue that didn’t massively impact LFC supporters at all, but who challenged it anyway because it was the right thing to do.
And to the LFC supporters who sought to defend the decision – behave yourselves. Trying to justify the original decision by reference to bigger businesses that have tried to do the same, doesn’t remotely justify what LFC did. Football has to deal with a lot of the same issues as big business, but it IS different. Fan loyalty earns the clubs millions, and clubs shouldn’t abuse that loyalty by thinking they can get away with crap like this. Yes, other businesses should be held to account on what they do in this crisis, but that doesn’t give football clubs a free pass.
And to the fans of other clubs who piled in on this – behave yourselves. Some of you may well be inspired purely by a sense of right and wrong and love of the NHS or whatever, but most of you will have been made up at LFC doing this, just so you could spew your outrage at a club you don’t like anyway. And yes LFC fans are also often guilty of this – just pack it in, the lot of you.
Paul F (LFC)
One: Couldn’t agree more with the afternoon mailboxers yesterday…
Two: The thing that has made me saddest / angriest was that football – something I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time and money on for most of my life – had an opportunity to genuinely do some good. Obviously the money in the game could be redeployed temporarily for worthwhile causes, either in sport or health. And fans should continue to bang on about it to shame the leaders of the game to do their bit.
But when / if things get back to “normal”, football is going to be one of the first things that a massive part of the population want to get back to. Normally football is a great distraction from real sh*t going on, and gives us something to talk about and look forward to every week. After this it takes on greater significance – something to signal that despite the loss of life, increase in anxiety, and impact on everyone’s financial stability, those of us lucky to get to the other side of it will get back to doing the things we’ve (largely speaking happily) sacrificed for the greater good.
Football, and the Premier League in particular given its massive fan base around the world, is in a privileged position in that it would effectively be leading the return to normal for the”unimportant things” for millions / billions of people. Entertain a massive global audience. Show that all shapes, colours, and creeds can come together and overcome (relatively small) challenges. Do its bit for getting back to normal. Instead, football has ignored all social responsibility it has, chosen to protect cash flows, and has stuck its hand out…
Three: For the avoidance of doubt, this “government money” is actually UK taxpayers’ money. Your money, your children’s money (and depending on how bad this gets, your grandchildren’s money) is the original source of cash for furloughed staff. Taxpayers will not only help millions of normal folks get back on their feet, re-start the economy, and continue to pay for the health, education, and protection we all enjoy – but also subsidise (all five of) Liverpool, Norwich, Newcastle, Tottenham and Bournemouth. Taxpayers will subsidise their players’ current salaries, their upcoming transfers, their distributions to shareholders, their stadium upgrades, and anything else they choose to spend their cash on because the government is meeting the obligations they have to their employees. If that doesn’t really p*ss you off, both in terms of where your money is going, but the barefaced cheek of Premier League clubs doing that when they can actually meet their social responsibilities without sticking their hand out (i.e. millionaires and billionaires go with slightly less so the greater number of folks continue to get a decent wage), then I’ve got nothing for you. Even if you are a fan of one of those clubs, 80% of every taxpayer pound going to football is not going to your club…
Some players and clubs doing the right thing off their own bat is great, but people’s perception of football will be, rightly, tarred by the actions of these very public few…
Simon (we’re all in this together), one of a lot fewer Australians in London
Farewell the self-appointed guardians
I do hope the Liverpool furlough flip flop will presage the slow death of sell appointed guardians of football such as the Spirit of Shankly, who’ve been exposed as nothing more than venal lickspittles.
Such self appointed publicity seeking popinjays appear to have attached themselves to many clubs in the social media era. Always eager to turn up the “game of the people” rhetoric when denouncing the doings of other clubs, they’ve always been suspiciously less robust when dealing with their own.
I’ve long suspected all football clubs are basically the same when it comes to fans – some good, some bad, some ugly. And so it has come to pass.
So like Barca’s “more than a club” nonsense, I do hope we now see the end of fan groups who try to portray their club and their outlook as somehow “better” than that of others.
It’s always been bollocks and is now proven as much.
When five become four
Last week, I wrote in and condemned Spurs for furloughing their staff. I followed it by saying “More will follow. Greed will out”. And lo, The Filthy Five were formed.
Yesterday, I wrote in and said that I “…was expecting a Merseyside backlash and a Liverpool FC volte face”. Well, it’s Monday night and you’ll never guess what?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a rather urgent matter I need to attend to….
Mark (“Now then. Google Nash-er-null Lot-er-eee”. *return*). MCFC.
Restarting the season
It seems as though it’s not going to be a great idea to put 60,000 people in close proximity to each other in a football stadium for a good 6 months or so but in my mind it is more important to finish the current season than start the next one on time. It also seems that travelling around Europe to watch football is an even more distant prospect.
I therefore propose that this season restarts in Sep/Oct culminating in a festive schedule involving the Premier League climax and FA cup final. There could then be a short winter break before a shorter ‘half season’ in which clubs only play each other once and the FA cup and League cup are both omitted. This year’s European competitions would also restart during this time by when we will hopefully be able to travel freely once more.
This would allow sporting integrity to be maintained whilst also keeping safety paramount and allowing the 21/22 season to start on time.
Just need to beat the virus in the next 6 months now!!
Mark Nathan, Gooner
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