Football has enough money to leave no casualties…

Date published: Monday 16th March 2020 9:26

The most important aspect about the curtailing of professional football is the impact it will have on those who can least afford it: the workforce that keeps a football club going and the ancillary businesses that supply them.

Remember, the vast majority of Premier League clubs do not pay even the Living Wage. They are largely staffed by people on minimum or low wages, often on a part-time basis, many only on match day.

It is almost impossible to fully comprehend or appreciate in detail how our society is constructed and how its operation relies on the inter-connectivity of all things, but like a huge ball of pick-up-sticks, pull out one and it affects all others. Removing football from the economics of any town is like cutting an important financial artery and inducing a financial heart attack.

But because wealth is obvious and everywhere, from big houses, to acres of land, to ostentatious displays of consumerism, the glaring light from it blinds us to how profoundly skint so many people in the UK are. Poverty exists in the shadows. By its very nature it is hidden from those who do not suffer it. But the fact is there are almost 10m households with no savings whatsoever.

Just one pay day away from the street, living a precarious life on low wages, propped up – if they’re lucky – by the generosity of others via food banks and other small mercies. This fact is not natural or inevitable, it is the consequence of the economic model which we’ve lived under for over 40 years and happily tolerated by those who do not suffer from it, often because of cultural and political propaganda which has persuaded enough that poverty is punishment for the feckless or lazy or stupid. But that 10 million almost certainly includes those who work at our clubs on minimum wage. It is they who will feel the brunt of this suspension and they who are least able to cope financially.

But this is easily solved. All it involves is not being greedy.

It is a time of crisis which calls for a radical redistribution of wealth. Not a single club employee, full-time or part-time should suffer any financial hardship because of this curtailing of football. All should continue to receive their wages in full. The average wage for a PL player is £50,000 per week. A lot of staff at football grounds will be on or close to minimum wage of £8.21 per hour, or about £328 per week if they work a 40-hour week, which most won’t. Thus each player could pay 152 people’s minimum weekly wage bill with one week’s average wage.

If the 24 squad members all paid in 50k for one week it would pay minimum wage to about 3,648 people. A PL club employs around anything from 150 to 1,000 non-playing staff, though many are likely part-time, often for match days only. Even allowing for the staffing to be around 1,000, 24 players donating one week’s average wages could pay the entire staff wage bill at a club for at least three weeks, probably much longer. If they donate one month’s money they’d be paying the staff wage bill for three or four months. You get the point. However long this virus lasts, Premier League footballers are a vast resource of wealth to be tapped into.

With a yearly collective Premier League wage bill of approximately £3 billion, not one staff member should be out of pocket by a penny. They should be paid in full for the duration of the hiatus out of that wage bill. And players should be happy to donate it. It is the least they and the clubs could do.

Because here’s the thing. These are the workers who make footballers’ lives possible. Without their labour there would be no match-day experience to sell. The games could literally not go ahead. So in a very real sense, players owe those people and owe them big. Without their graft, there would be no riches in their pockets.

At PL level, football is a huge industry creating obscene wealth off the backs of the underpaid who are now in danger of being cast aside like so much human detritus. It must not happen. We must not let it happen.

But it doesn’t stop there. We know that many lower-league clubs will be thrown into financial peril without gate and hospitality money, pushing the whole of the football pyramid into crisis.

Meanwhile, the Premier League is apparently currently sitting on over a billion pounds, the FA also has cash reserves and the playing staff must still have the lion’s share of that three billion from last year’s wages alone. It is their collective duty to protect the pyramid. They are not separate from it, they are part of it. It is the nourishing roots that feed the football body.

Once we’re through this crisis, there has to be the football equivalent of a sovereign wealth fund set up into which all pay a set % of their turnover and all can access when needed in times of crisis. But in the meantime the sheer amount of money in top-flight football should be used to keep every club afloat. Clearly, there are problems if such monies are merely bailing out irresponsible owners, but equally, there has to be a way of staving off a financial crisis not of anyone’s making.

Plenty of money is plenty enough. Those with so much should share it with those whose sweated labour allows it to happen, week in week out. This isn’t forever, it’s just for a few months.

Why wouldn’t every multi-millionaire player want to help? I’m sure they will. Of course they will. Not a single one excluded. Right? Right? They will…won’t they? They won’t abandon the people who they need in order to have a career as a professional footballer will they? Oh no, surely not.

John Nicholson

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