In a significant development in football’s attempts to get to grips with the coronavirus crisis, the EFL and the players’ union, the PFA, have made a collective recommendation that players in Leagues One and Two agree a wage deferral of up to 25% for the month of April.
After a series of negotiations over the Easter weekend the two parties came to an understanding they stress is “not a directive”. It is, however, the first communal settlement to be agreed regarding footballers’ wages and a move it will be hoped can help avert a cash-flow crisis for lower league clubs in the absence of live football.
The terms of the deal would mean no player would see his wage reduced below £2,500 a month, a figure equivalent to the maximum level of subsidy under the government’s furlough scheme. The deferral will also be accompanied by the establishment of a working group to look at player pay over the “short and medium term”.
A statement released jointly by both bodies said: “In order to deal with the most immediate payroll issue, the EFL is recommending to clubs that local discussions are held with players in respect of the month of April only.
“A compromise proposal has been agreed between the EFL and the PFA for those clubs engaged in deferral negotiations with their players, meaning that, up to a maximum of 25% of players’ wages for April may be conditionally deferred within the following limits: players earning less than £2,500 per month will be paid in full; the 25% reduction must not take any player below £2,500 per month.”
Communal recommendation, however temporary, will be seen as a chink of light regarding the problem of how to adjust players’ wages during the Covid-19 pandemic. An attempt by the Premier League to recommend a 30% pay cut for top-flight players was widely seen to have backfired after it failed to secure the approval of the PFA and led to clubs individually negotiating terms with players. Championship clubs – several of whom have wage bills that exceed their annual revenue – are also engaged in their own discussions.
Clubs in League One and Two are more reliant on matchday revenue and the EFL and PFA say they accept they share “common problems”. As a result a working group involving half a dozen player representatives from the two divisions, alongside PFA and EFL officials, will seek to establish further common ground.
“In establishing the new group the EFL and PFA acknowledge the common problems faced by the League and member clubs, and the need for all parties to be part of a solution,” the statement read.
“Dialogue with the working group will enable the League both to listen to the concerns of players and to explain the extent of the financial challenges. It will focus not just on the short term (May and June) but will address the medium-term position from the start of July onwards and into next season.”