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Opinion

Biggest challenge with Premier League players is not pay cuts, it is if they refuse to play

7 months ago
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The position of Premier League players is a hot topic.

Unable to play football at the moment, they are sitting at home still earning vast fortunes.

People asking why aren’t they making sacrifices, especially when some unscrupulous owners are now passing the responsibility for paying lowly paid club staff to the government.

Billionaire owners and millionaire footballers still sitting pretty whilst so many ordinary folk are struggling financially, not a good look.

The Government have been worse than useless in dealing with this virus crisis, years and years of underfunding have left the NHS in a far weaker position than it should be. Then they have compounded that underlying problem with sheer incompetence, a feeble number of tests (particularly for NHS staff) carried out compared to countries like Germany, the same with availability of protective equipment for NHS staff and supply of additional ventilators.

Little wonder then that the absolutely pathetic Health Secretary Matt Hancock was happy to try and deflect attention towards Premier league players on Thursday: ‘Given the sacrifices many people are making, the first thing Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution.’

Why wasn’t Matt Hancock demanding that those super rich people from all walks of life, particularly bankers and others who earn a lot of money for little personal effort, all make ‘sacrifices’ and ‘make a contribution’ towards doing extra to help in this crisis?

Of course some rich individuals from all walks of life have been doing the right thing, whether Premier League players or whoever.

There still of course needs to be a collective agreed effort from the Premier League players as well and on Thursday night in a public statement, the PFA made clear this will definitely happen: ‘We fully accept that players will have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the COVID-19 outbreak in order to secure the long-term future of their own club and indeed the wider game.’

However, I see a far bigger issue further down the line.

The wage issue will be sorted in the very near future I reckon. Probably a mixture of a wage cut with that money going to help others, as well as part of their pay being deferred, delayed until some kind of normality returns and remaining TV money for 2019/20 is paid to PL clubs. Not everybody will be happy of course, as some would only be content if all Premier League players saw their entire income stripped away. However, just so long as the players are seen to do their bit, most of the general public will be content.

The bigger problem I see though, is when it is decided to start playing matches again.

It is now taken for granted that initially matches will take place behind closed doors when the Premier League restarts, as part of  a gradual return to normality.

Where I see a big issue arising is when you see comments from journalists and others, as well as fans, saying that even games behind closed door can only happen if it is 100% safe to do so.

Reality is that there will never be a time when it is ‘100% safe’ to play again, that doesn’t exist.

Instead, it will be a time reached when on balance it is the right time for Premier League games to be played again. A decision based on what medical experts say and what politicians will think is the best decision overall for society.

I see comments along the lines of if games start again, it would only take one new case of a Premier League player testing positive and all the games would have to grind to a halt.

For me that is nonsense. By the point of any return to playing, it would only happen once mass testing of people is happening, so with PL level cash it would ensure they could afford repeat testing of players between matches to do their best to ensure no other players develop the virus BUT there is no 100% sure thing.

At some point we all have to get back to work, including Premier League players. It is not financially viable for the current measures to stay in place for long, with the government paying most ordinary people not to work.

So factories, shops, offices and every other walk of life will return at some time, having to deal with the balance of having to earn a living and staying healthy.

What I foresee is that there will undoubtedly be some Premier League players who will refuse to play, even when the decision is taken to resume with matches.

That is when I think people would/will have massive problems with these individuals. Premier League players who have been able to live far more comfortably than the rest of us all through these months of crisis AND still picking up massive amounts of money, even with a pay cut and/or deferment. Then when it is time for them to go back to work, just like it will be for the rest of us, they say no.

The rest of us don’t have that kind of luxury to fall back on, enough money in the bank and status to think they don’t have to do the same as us.

If some players are going to insist they will only play again once everything is totally back to normal and fans can fill the stadiums as usual, the sport that finances their lifestyle could/would be fatally harmed, if enough of them refused.

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