Premier League

When are we getting a collective Premier League response to the coronavirus crisis?

If the players are given a financial solution that they can get behind, everyone will emerge with a positive outcome

 
2:50pm on Thursday 2nd April 2020
By
Paul Macdonald

There are some businesses and public figures that will not emerge from the coronavirus crisis with history on their side.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to cripple the economy by confining the working public to their homes, hospitals and NHS staff are being pushed to the limit, while fiscal policy has been forced to apply unprecedented measures to avoid the complete collapse of our society.

Football often steps up in tough times, and though this event has forced clubs into lockdown and the concept of sport well down the list of priorities, there have been clear indications that philanthropy is alive and well judging by some of the donations.

The likes of Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola have provided seven-figure donations to foundations within Spain, while in Germany the #WeKickCorona hashtag, publicised by Bayern Munich duo Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, which has been supported by Robert Lewandowski, raised £3.5m in no time at all.

In the UK, Man Utd and Man City went public with their £100k offerings to local foodbanks, while the likes of Sadio Mane - among many others, it has to be said - continues to do exemplary work under the radar.

Here's a nice explainer of what some clubs are doing, but frankly this reads like a multi-billion dollar business pretending to be your local school.

Some footballers are well aware of their privilege, but football clubs in general still seem to underestimate the good that they could provide in a moment like this. It's not about self-promotion, or positive PR, but rather contributing to the local economy that drives their entire business model.

And it feels at the moment that the support that has come in, while welcome, is disparate and lacking in cohesion. These schemes can have a degree of cynicism attached to them and it is never clear, beyond the initial emotional reaction, who is the gatekeeper of the funds, what it is being spent on, and, ultimately, where it goes.

The likes of Simon Jordan, spouting schemes on TalkSport about clubs withholding 50% of player salaries in order create a fighting fund, are admirable in their intention but comprehensively unworkable. It's one thing to say it and it's quite another to create something that could be workable.

So at FootballCritic, we thought we would have a go.

STIPULATIONS

- The method of raising money must be realistic

- It must be straightforward to join

- It must be flexible to stop barriers for entry

- It must be easily understandable

- It must have a scale where the operation is worthwhile

SOLUTION

The 1% approach of Common Goal, rolled out on an industrial scale.

For the unfamiliar, Common Goal is a charity where members pledge 1% of their salaries to a central fund which is then distributed to organisations that utilise football as a wider good and look to advance the United Nations' Global Goals.

Juan Mata was one of the founder members, and since figures such as Jurgen Klopp and Megan Rapinoe have pledged their support as the organisation grows.

Football still has too many self-Interested people for this to have exploded in the way that it should have, but this is now a post-coronavirus environment, and nothing is the same as it was before. Common Goal's model as a base line should be applied here. They are established, they have sway, they have powerful existing members and their business has clear transparency.

It can never be a mandatory decree, no matter how desperate the circumstances; the legal ramifications of ring-fencing player salaries would hold up the campaign for years. But it can be promoted to players and they can be encouraged to join for a short period of their choosing.

Some players crave publicity and some actively avoid it. Some give their money away with the media in tow, and others do it because it's the right thing to do. In FootballCritic's initiative, the contribution would be anonymous by default, and what the player chooses to do from there is up to them.

WHAT Premier League PLAYERS COULD CONTRIBUTE

Based on the source Spotrac, which tracks, among other things, Premier League wage bills, the 2019/20 outlay for clubs will be £1.1 Billon (excluding adjustments for performance and other bonuses).

If we split this amount down monthly, then stipulate a range of percentages and a range of months from one to four initially, players could raise significant sums without having to do anything other than commit to the cause.

Assuming 100% uptake

# Months1%2%3%4%5%
1£910k£1.82m£2.73m£3.64m£4.55m
2£1.82m£3.64m£5.46m£7.28m£9.1m
3£2.73m£5.46m£8.19m£10.92m£13.65m
4£3.64m£7.28m£10.92m£14.56m£18.2m

Clubs, too should be encouraged to contribute. The simplest way of achieving this would be for clubs to match their player contributions. Again, it is a estimation of the numbers but if the players contributing were evenly spread across the clubs, it would mean a payment of £1.46m for Manchester City, and £122k for Sheffield United at either end of the salary scale.

If all this was achieved, there could be £36.4m made available from clubs in the most affluent league in world.

Now, clearly, the idea of every single player signing up to this contribution is fanciful - but, you would hope given the current situation, that it would be much less fanciful than it would have been before. In this second scenario we estimate at least 20% will not participate for whatever reason, and this is reflected in the numbers.

Assuming 80% update

# Months1%2%3%4%5%
1£728k£1.46m£2.18m£2.91m£3.64m
2£1.46m£2.92m£4.36m£5.82m£7.28m
3£2.18m£4.38m£6.54m£8.73m£10.92m
4£2.91m£5.84m£8.72m£11.64m£14.56m

It's a non-scientific calculation. But even if 80% of Premier League players contributed 5% of their salaries for four months, and the clubs matched them, £29m could be raised to combat the coronavirus.

Football is a non-essential industry, and its members must realise that lucrative player contracts, the size of broadcast deals and the value of their services are not only entirely based on their ability to compete, but that they are intrinsically linked to the communities that support them, whether they find that palatable or not. A contribution of this size, fairly and appropriately spread across the teams, seems to be the minimum that should be expected.

If clubs are going to request wage cuts - which may happen, even though we have only been in the midst of the this crisis for less than a month - in the name of self-preservation, it is going to be an extremely bad look the next time they are posting record revenues when we come out the other side. Especially if they have offered less than nothing to wider society.

The proposal, in its simplicity, could and should be copied across to other sports. In an environment in the UK where five million self-employed people don't know where there next salary is coming from, it's up to the working population to help out in a crisis and since government assistance is fundamentally unclear, the burden needs to fall upon sport to organise itself.

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