The Brighton & Hove Albion owner, Tony Bloom, has called on the Professional Footballers’ Association to “step up to the mark” and urged the players’ union to be more open-minded as the dispute over wages amid the coronavirus crisis rumbles on.
With several clubs yet to agree terms with their players over taking temporary salary deferrals, Bloom said the PFA needs to shoulder responsibility and look beyond the short term, warning that if the impasse is not resolved financially crippled clubs risk going out of business.
The Premier League attempted to mediate between players and clubs by recommending a 30% pay cut for top-flight players but it was agreed that each would find their own solution. Southampton’s players agreed last week to go without 10% of their pay for the next three months to ensure non-playing staff receive their salaries in full, while West Ham have also followed suit.
League One and League Two clubs have agreed, in coordination with the English Football League and PFA, to defer up to 25% of players’ April salaries, while Championship clubs – several of whom have wage bills that exceed their annual revenue – are also expected to make individual decisions. Wigan’s players have agreed to defer a percentage of their salaries for three months.
The Brighton captain, Lewis Dunk, and vice-captain, Glenn Murray, remain in dialogue with Bloom regarding a possible wage cut.
“I think it is time for the PFA to step up to the mark,” Bloom said. “There are players with contracts running out soon but also younger players who don’t have contracts right now, and players lower down the leagues – a lot of those clubs literally won’t have money to pay wages in a month or two. The last thing we need is for so many clubs to go into administration and maybe not get out of it. There is a wider picture here and the PFA has a wider responsibility.”
Bloom will invest “significant extra funds” into Brighton in the short to medium term as a result of the crisis and added that lower-league clubs going bust was a genuine concern but, at the same time, said he hoped the pandemic would ultimately prove a catalyst for helping football recalibrate financially.
“We were all devastated when Bury went out of business,” he said. “We know how key these clubs are to their community. It is a big concern going forward that clubs in this country and other countries will fold. I think it does need to be looked at because it really is unsustainable. It needs something like this crisis perhaps to get across some significant, sustainable change.”
Premier League shareholders are due to meet on Friday, with a 30 June cut-off date mooted for the 2019-20 season. Several top-flight players are out of contract before the start of July but Brighton unequivocally wish to finish the season as scheduled. Paul Barber, the Brighton chief executive, acknowledged when the season does resume that it will not be a “perfect finish”.
Bloom said: “There does come a point when we can’t keep waiting but I don’t think 30 June is that point. From our point of view and the majority Premier League clubs, we would very much like to finish the season; for the integrity of the league it would be very good to finish it. There’s talk about player contracts and sponsorship and it’s difficult to play beyond that but this situation is so unique and unprecedented every option should be looked at.”