As the Premier League prepares to finally return, why not look at how each club responded to the challenge of the last three months or so?
There have been scandals, sex parties, furloughing and non-furloughing – and plenty of bad bits, too.
For years these uber-rich clubs have been banging the drum about being decent and charitable, and the past few months have given them a perfect opportunity to actually prove it and show off that philanthropic side.
So which Premier League clubs have led by example, how many have been penny-pinching f**kheads and what of those in between?
Please don’t read too much into the markings out of ten. It is a bit of fun, not an attempt to trivialise the pandemic in any way.
Mikel Arteta had the misfortune of catching the virus but it was his illness that likely forced the Premier League to pause when it did. Indeed, Arsenal knew the gravity of the situation first-hand, but that didn’t stop Alexandre Lacazette, David Luiz, Nicolas Pépé and Granit Xhaka each landing themselves in hot water after breaking government rules.
Lacazette was filmed apparently inhaling the class C drug nitrous oxide – or, to temporarily don that most tabloid of hats, the fabled ‘hippy crack’.
Arsenal continued to pay casual workers for the remaining home matches, and after some back and forth, most of the squad agreed to take a 12.5% pay cut. Mesut Ozil, however, refused and was subject to predictable criticism.
His actions were questioned but the reasoning was fair. The concern as to where his saved wages would end up ultimately led to a deeper discussion about whether players should just throw money into organisations instead of helping directly. So he was right. 8/10
Jack Grealish delivered a heartfelt plea to supporters, asking them to stay at home, in an ultimate example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. He apologised for that incident, even donating to Birmingham Children’s Hospital while raising over £55,000 for the NHS by raffling off one of his signed Villa shirts. The captain has displayed more than enough contrition.
The squad agreed to a 25% pay cut for four months, while no staff members were put on furlough.
All in all, more heroic than villainous. 7/10
The ordinarily plucky Bournemouth put 50 of their staff on furlough and were one of the final clubs to reverse that decision – but at least they did.
Eddie Howe was the first Premier League boss to take a pay cut amid the virus outbreak, while assistant boss Jason Tindall, chief executive Neill Blake and technical director Richard Hughes accepted ‘significant’ hits to their wages.
The club did make charitable donations, but overall it was a relatively modest showing from everyone’s second favourite club™.
Jordon Ibe’s ingenious idea of inviting celebrity barber Nikky Okyere round for a trim and posting the evidence on Instagram, all while wearing a gown bearing the slogan ‘Breaking The Rules & Changing The Game, was one of the highlights of Premier League stupidity during the last few months.
After an investigation by the club, he issued a grovelling apology, but that won’t save their low score. 3/10
Brighton’s deputy chairman and chief executive Paul Barber, technical director Dan Ashworth and head coach Graham Potter all took significant voluntary pay cuts to ensure that non-playing staff would not be furloughed
Players and directors also raised more than £300,000 for the Albion As One fund, a Sussex charity, while they delivered food parcels to the elderly.
The Amex was converted into a test centre, the club gave 1,000 free tickets to NHS workers, and they released a home shirt with ‘Thank You NHS’ emblazoned upon it. Steven Alzate then donated to a foundation supporting homeless and vulnerable people in Villavicencio.
No players were caught breaking lockdown rules such as hosting sex parties or crashing into cars while allegedly drunk and wearing a single sandal. Nerds.
Brighton lose half a mark for being annoyingly perfect and boring. 9.5/10
The community club did well in providing for locals, as they normally do, despite chairman Mike Garlick claiming that the club could lose £50million if the Premier League didn’t continue. There were no breaches, and the club led the way in remote training.
Financial donations were also made to food banks. But some felt the club pulled the plug on not paying staff on zero-hour contracts too early. From June 1 Burnley decided to stop paying such workers, meaning those who arguably needed money the most lost out. 4.5/10
Callum Hudson-Odoi was arrested on the morning of May 18 but will not face any further action on an allegation of rape. This came after his positive test forced Chelsea into an early lockdown.
Mason Mount was pictured having a kickabout with West Ham’s Declan Rice during March to add to the club’s woes.
But away from a couple of individuals, the club performed brilliantly. Chelsea opened up Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge stadium for NHS staff and teamed up with the domestic abuse charity Refuge. The players also donated to the Chelsea Foundation.
They lose half a mark for making ridiculously superb signings and leaving many people (including myself) very jealous. (Well, I never said the marking would be fair, did I?) 6/10
Wilfred Zaha and his business partner Obi Williams provided free accommodation for 50 NHS workers and the entire squad contributed to charity Age UK Croydon.
Selhurst Park was used to help out ambulance workers. Staff got in touch with some 1,000 supporters over the age of 70 to see if they required any help, such as shopping.
But the biggest f**k yeah was Patrick van Aanholt tearing into Katie Hopkins. It’s been his best performance against a right-winger for ages. 8.5/10
The £50,000 ‘Blue Family’ campaign involved charity staff delivering emergency food parcels, medical prescriptions and fuel vouchers to those in need. Players and management took part in the thousands of phone calls the club made to elderly and isolating people.
Even King Carlo himself helped out.
There were no indiscretions, a family club living up to its reputation. 9/10
No breaches were reported from the players. Brendan Rodgers contracted the virus two weeks after the Foxes’ final game and was one of the first managers to suggest the league should cease for a while.
Kasper Schmeichel donated £20,000 to Age UK in March, as the club helped out the community where possible.
No staff members were placed on furlough, so it’s unfortunately another boring high score. 9/10
There was an uncomfortable amount of glee in some corners when the supposed media darlings decided to furlough all non-playing staff. The world’s seventh-richest club was compelled into a grovelling U-turn after backlash from the supporters’ union and local politicians. The furloughing was something they probably expected every club to utilise – but you would expect Liverpool to lead by example.
No players were caught bending the rules. Jordan Henderson was the driving force behind the PlayersTogether initiative that has raised millions directly for frontline NHS workers. Jurgen Klopp was brilliant in his communication with the fans via official channels.
The club was also the first in the Premier League to show solidarity with the BLM movement, being pictured dropping a knee, but their naysayers will still point to their initial actions as a reason for them to lose points in this prestigious list. 5.5/10
Pep Guardiola’s mother died from Covid-19 and he teamed up with Lionel Messi in donating €1million to Spain to help fight the virus.
City’s Etihad Stadium was made available for use by the NHS; sometimes it’s not so bad having bags of wealth from morally problematic sources. Long may it continue! *Ahem*
But Kyle Walker let the side down for a Dominic Cummings-style crusade, though perhaps the expense afforded by the press in trailing him should have been used on a senior political advisor rather than a footballer.
Mental health is slowly breaking away from being taboo and it seems like Walker is going through something of a rough patch. But if high-end sex parties are the answer, the question rarely matters. 8/10
Manchester United joined forces with Manchester City in donating to local food banks. The Manchester United Foundation also donated to schools to help with the pandemic. Not bad for a club whose owners have riddled it with debt. They didn’t furlough any staff either.
Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, has been the standout Premier League player during these times, an absolute hero and role model for a fractured nation. 9/10
They were the first club to put staff on furlough – and they will hold the record of being the last whenever they decide to finally take them off the government-backed scheme.
Player contracts have been neglected and quite shockingly season tickets still have not paid back to fans. Mike Ashley, by some accounts, has been whisking away around the world complaining about the £300millllion cheque which still hasn’t arrived from the Saudi state. Bless.
The club have done the basics – delivering emergency supplies to the vulnerable and making calls to elderly and lonely fans – so they can save themselves from a scoreless mark.
They get another half-point owing to the pending and supposed imminent takeover; it does add confusion as to who should be paying the bills somewhat.
But they have been a complete farce and couldn’t sink much lower if they got a dwarf to install the fixed basin in their kitchen. 1.5/10
Norwich placed non-playing staff on furlough, using the government’s job retention scheme.
The Canaries said in a statement: “The furloughing of staff will safeguard future jobs and help sustain the club throughout this period.”
Naughty Norwich, using Newcastle as their canary in the mine. But since their funds are limited given the almost certain relegation – they realistically need five wins – they at least have some leeway. The club also provided weekly calls to elderly fans. 2.5/10
Chris Wilder and chief executive Stephen Bettis agreed to partial pay and bonus deferrals. The players took pay cuts, too, but the club did furlough some staff during the pandemic.
No players acted out and the club behaved modestly with regard to financial dealings. For that, they get a modest score. 5/10
I have always wanted to say this: Southampton have been true Saints. They were the first club to defer salaries, from manager, to board room, to players.
The club’s owners said those staff not deferring wages will continue to earn the entirety of their salary and even confirmed Southampton will not be utilising government’s Job Retention Scheme.
As well as current players, some former stars got in involved in raising money. Matt Le Tissier, James Beattie and Brian Howard, along with FareShare, provided 12,000 meals for some of the most vulnerable in the region. The club also made use of the phone, calling elderly people and picking up prescriptions, in what has been a stellar example of conduct by a Premier League club. Top marks. 10/10
Tottenham have had an eventful few months. Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko had to apologise after they conducted a training session in a park. It was not long after Jose Mourinho, ball in arm, gave Tanguy Ndombele a knock to see if he could come and play. They had a one-on-one session in a park but were found out.
Dele Alli lamented the betrayal of a mate who sold a Snapchat story of him mocking coronavirus. It was sent to a group of around 160 ‘close mates’, all in all. Does being super-rich make you ridiculously popular?
He issued an apology but was fined £50,000 and banned for Tottenham’s upcoming game against Manchester United.
The Premier League’s highest-paid chairman, Daniel Levy, receives top marks for communication, less so in terms of actually helping his workers.
Tottenham did eventually decide to reverse their decision to use the government”s furlough scheme, following criticism from their own supporters. But the initial news that 550 non-playing staff would not be paid to “protect jobs” left a sour taste, as did the antics of the aforementioned players and manager. A sh*tshow, but not monumentally so. 2.5/10
Watford did not furlough any staff and provided 10,000 sets of laundered scrubs for the neighbouring General Hospital. They did considerable charity work during the period, while players agreed to an undisclosed salary reduction.
Troy Deeney was vocal and vital in discussions about the return of the Premier League. Nigel Pearson was similarly impressive. 9.5/10
The normally gracious Karen Brady took the ill-informed decision to call for the Premier League to start again just as the death tolls in the UK reached their highest.
The club furloughed some staff and Rice was caught meeting for a kick around with Mount. But players did defer some of their wages and David Sullivan and David Gold and shareholders put in some £30million to help ease the financial strain. 6.5/10
Despite having the ugliest kit and stadium in the Premier League, the club showed that inside, they really are quite beautiful and caring. The Quasimodo-esque side did brilliantly well in keeping every staff member on full pay during the break and making everyone feel like they actually cared. 8.75/10
Jacque Talbot is on Twitter