Barcelona hold talks to slash player wages by 70% in lock­down

English Foot­ball League work­ing with play­ers’ union over salaries and fi­nance

The Guardian - - Sport Football - Sid Lowe and Ben Fisher ▲

Barcelona are con­sid­er­ing a pay cut of up to 70% for all of their play­ers for as long as the coro­n­avirus lock­down lasts in Spain. The play­ers are un­der­stood to be re­cep­tive to the re­duc­tion but no agree­ment has been reached.

The in­ten­tion is for any mea­sures to ap­ply equally to the men’s and women’s foot­ball teams, the B team, the un­der-19s and to those who play bas­ket­ball, hand­ball, fut­sal and roller hockey. It would also ap­ply to staff work­ing with those teams.

Barcelona are the only La Liga club to ad­mit they are look­ing at ways to al­le­vi­ate the eco­nomic im­pact of the Covid-19 pan­demic, although the league an­nounced it would sup­port its mem­bers in any mea­sures they deem nec­es­sary. More clubs are ex­pected to fol­low suit.

Labour leg­is­la­tion in Spain al­lows com­pa­nies to ap­ply tem­po­rary mea­sures to lay off staff or re­duce wages in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances but Barcelona would pre­fer to reach a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment. Staff in non­foot­ball de­part­ments are re­signed to the prob­a­bil­ity they will be af­fected.

The TV com­pany that owns the rights to La Liga in Spain has an­nounced it will ap­ply tem­po­rary mea­sures to more than 1,000 staff.

Barcelona held meet­ings last week and again on Tuesday. They had a pos­i­tive re­sponse from the club cap­tains. The pro­posal was for the re­duc­tion to last as long as the lock­down but af­ter which play­ers would go back to earn­ing 100% of their salary, even if com­pe­ti­tion does not re­turn and the league re­mains un­fin­ished. Spain’s state of alarm was an­nounced on 11 March and is set to con­tinue un­til at least 11 April.

Most Span­ish foot­ballers are paid a monthly salary, re­ferred to as the

sueldo, plus two larger an­nual pay­ments six months apart known as the

ficha. It is not clear whether the re­duc­tion would ap­ply only to the sueldo or to the ficha as well. Four monthly pay­ments re­main out­stand­ing this sea­son.

Barcelona’s eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion is pre­car­i­ous and there are con­cerns the club may not be able to meet some of their pay­ments if the sea­son is not com­pleted. Of an an­nual bud­get of €1.047bn (£970m), 66% was spent on wages last sea­son, down from 70% the sea­son be­fore but con­sid­ered too high. The pro­jec­tion was 61% this sea­son but that tar­get is now un­likely to be met.

Mean­while, the English Foot­ball League is work­ing with the Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers’ As­so­ci­a­tion to de­ter­mine a so­lu­tion to fi­nan­cial mat­ters, no­tably player wages. An out­come is be­ing sought that will ease clubs through the com­ing months.

Leeds are among sev­eral Cham­pi­onship clubs to have held dis­cus­sions with play­ers about de­fer­ring wages. The Leeds direc­tor of foot­ball, Vic­tor Orta, and the chief ex­ec­u­tive, An­gus Kin­n­ear, dis­cussed it with play­ers on Tuesday and, in the event such a mea­sure is en­forced, it is un­der­stood the wages of the man­ager, Marcelo Bielsa, and his staff would also be de­ferred. Leeds have five re­main­ing home fix­tures, each of which earns around £700,000 in match­day rev­enue.

It is un­der­stood dis­cus­sions with the PFA stemmed from a con­fer­ence call be­tween Cham­pi­onship clubs last week when they talked about po­ten­tial strate­gies for less­en­ing the strain of player wages on fi­nances at a time when there is lit­tle to no in­come.

Some clubs op­er­ate with sig­nif­i­cantly higher wage bills than oth­ers and, for some, the short-term fi­nan­cial hole cre­ated by the ab­sence of match­day rev­enue is bear­able. Birm­ing­ham have re­quested their play­ers who earn more than £6,000 a week take a tem­po­rary 50% wage cut, and many other sec­ond-tier clubs are be­lieved to ex­plor­ing sim­i­lar solutions.

ALBERT GEA/REUTERS

Lionel Messi (cen­tre) and his team­mates are open for their salary to be cut.

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