Salary cuts not enough to save rank-and-file ‘fam­ily’ mem­bers

Pur­suit of suc­cess on pitch means spend­ing on fees, wages and agents – but comes at a cost for staff as Covid takes toll

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Sam Wal­lace

There are many clubs who like to think that they do things with more style and grace than oth­ers, al­though at Arse­nal there was a hard-won rep­u­ta­tion for cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful foot­ball in­sti­tu­tion while stay­ing loyal to the right way of achiev­ing suc­cess.

The big­gest ban­ner on the empty Arse­nal end at Wem­b­ley for Satur­day’s FA Cup fi­nal was not in hon­our of a player or a man­ager, but the club’s 85-year-old di­rec­tor Ken Friar, who first joined the club part­time as a 12-year-old. “A life­time of ded­i­ca­tion” was how the ban­ner cel­e­brated his 70 years of ser­vice at the club, al­though a job for life nowa­days feels an ever-more fan­ci­ful no­tion. The Covid era has cut through even the most durable rep­u­ta­tions and the 55 re­dun­dan­cies an­nounced by the club yes­ter­day demon­strate that not even Arse­nal are im­mune.

While there will be many oth­ers in the game and be­yond forced to do the same thing, the is­sue for Arse­nal is that, like other teams jostling for Cham­pi­ons League places, they will be obliged to spend money on fees, wages and agents this sum­mer.

Wil­lian, 32 this week, is ex­pected to ar­rive soon, as a well-re­mu­ner­ated free agent. David Luiz, 33, al­ready has the prom­ise of a new con­tract and both the Brazil­ians’ salaries would be dwarfed by any new deal for FA Cup-win­ning cap­tain Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang. Arse­nal know they can­not af­ford to stand still on the pitch. To save the club, they must first save the team. Easy to say, but harder to do when rank-and-file em­ploy­ees pay with their jobs – a bru­tal choice at a club where se­nior man­age­ment have taken pay cuts and Mikel Arteta and the play­ers ini­tially gave up 12.5 per cent of their an­nual salaries – though af­ter Europa League qual­i­fi­ca­tion that is now 7.5 per cent.

That all sug­gests that Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion next sea­son is cru­cial, al­though none of that will be any con­so­la­tion for those who no longer find them­selves Arse­nal em­ploy­ees by the end of the month.

As di­rec­tor Josh Kroenke in­fa­mously re­marked, the club have a Cham­pi­ons League wage bill on a Europa League bud­get, and ei­ther per­for­mance caught up with over­heads or some­thing else had to give. Im­plied in the state­ment was the no­tion that Arse­nal must now ac­cept a cer­tain amount of shrink­age – those “ad­di­tional staff ” ap­pointed in re­cent years “to take the club for­ward” – in keep­ing with their per­for­mances on the pitch. In short, they need more for less.

Those in­side Arse­nal say that they have been kept well-in­formed by man­age­ment of the prob­lems that the club have faced. At the very least you could say that Arse­nal have not tried to hide the ter­ri­ble choices they have had to make. If Arse­nal and any other club mak­ing job cuts wish to do the right thing then they could be trans­par­ent about the fees and wages they are pay­ing, in­clud­ing those to the agents who now seem to wield such in­flu­ence at the Emi­rates.

When the play­ers agreed wage cuts on April 20, the club said it had been borne of a “strong de­sire … to show their back­ing for the Arse­nal fam­ily”. Less than four months on it would ap­pear that those cuts were not enough to save all of the fam­ily in ques­tion and you won­der how the play­ers them­selves, whose wage cuts were sup­posed to mit­i­gate against job losses, view that out­come.

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