Yeovil Town of the National League have asked players and staff to take a 50% pay cut with immediate effect as they count the financial cost of the coronavirus crisis. The co-owner and chairman, Scott Priestnall, said the move was “soul-destroying” but hopes it will help safeguard the club’s long-term future.
Priestnall said the suspension of league fixtures would create a £400,000 financial hole between now and the end of June. He said Yeovil’s relegation from the Football League last season meant they operated with higher losses than many non-league clubs. More than a dozen players are contracted beyond the initial season end date of April, including nine until June 2021. Yeovil’s highest earner takes home around £1,200 a week.
“It is heartbreaking to ask them to take pay cuts,” Priestnall said. “It’s difficult but it is unavoidable. It was absolutely soul-destroying because we had a clear plan for this season, we have executed it above our expectations and I brought a manager in in Darren Sarll who has done a fantastic job and between us we have put a great squad together.
“We’re planning that we don’t get any assistance moving forward and I think we’ll be able to survive but we might end up carrying debt into next season, which is not ideal. Our players are not on astronomical sums of money and it is quite a big ask for them to do it but they understand we need to keep the future of the football club going forward. Because we got relegated last year, we had holes to fill and this situation makes it a lot worse.”
Another National League club, Barnet, last week served notice on approximately 60 members of staff, but Priestnall said he was determined to avoid redundancies.
Yeovil are fourth in the National League and, unless they return to League Two at the first attempt, they will also lose funding from the EFL into their academy. Priestnall admitted he was concerned about the long-term financial impact coronavirus could have on non-league clubs.
“Fans coming to games is the absolute lifeblood of their club, to keep it alive,” he said. “Everything revolves around gate receipts, that secondary-spend income from people attending games, commercials, sponsorship packages, selling shirts in the shop – everything a lower-league club and non-league club thrive on. The community side of it is what a club like us survive on. I hope and pray that all the clubs that are playing now restart whenever that might be and, at the moment, I think that might be doubtful.
“Less people could potentially afford to come to games because of the virus, businesses might not be able to sponsor or support clubs as they have done in the past, it could impact players wages because they will go down in line with revenues the clubs are generating and that knock-on effect I think will have such a catastrophic impact on non-league football to come.
“The sad thing is I think the amount of money we’re talking about to save non-league clubs is a small amount of money compared to the £50m the EFL announced last week or the £4bn TV contract paid to the Premier League. It is such a small amount of money that would be needed to keep everyone alive and moving forward.”