A dose of reality needed

Outside Sevilla’s stadium, completely deserted.
Outside Sevilla’s stadium, completely deserted. / EFE
  • Several weeks into lockdown, the players unions are still dragging their feet - all while others elsewhere in their clubs take a massive financial hit

It's time for top-level footballers to stop juggling toilet rolls and posting Instagram pictures from their palatial villas and tune in with the current world mood.

The reaction to the state of emergency has been quite unsavoury and damaging to the relationship between fan and footballer.

Several weeks into lockdown, the players unions are still dragging their feet and advising members to continue drawing full wage as others elsewhere in the club take a massive hit, or even worse, lose their livelihood.

In a previous life I was a professional footballer; alas my career didn’t advance, but the support I received from the players’ union (PFA) was invaluable. They assisted with further education, helped with finding another club and offered sound financial advice.

A few decades on, they are still offering financial advice, but I’m not convinced it’s morally sound.

It’s happening in La Liga and also in the Premier League; players are refusing to take pay cuts to help clubs and colleagues out.

You’ll read that some players are making donations to charities and this is very noble. Forgive me for being cynical but I’d imagine that these gestures are tax deductible - as is the setting up of foundations. Taking a pay ‘cut’ means there are no financial advantages, just losses.

The logic of the English PFA was that the State would lose out if players were not paying the enormous amounts of tax on their full earnings. Less pay means less tax paid. It is interesting reasoning but one I struggle to agree with.

Players tend to totally depend on their agents to do their thinking, so I suspect it isn’t all their doing.

I remember one Spanish agent telling me how his client, one of the more educated in the game, called him late at night as a kitchen light bulb needed changing. If they can’t change a light bulb, they’ll struggle to handle a complex financial situation.

Barcelona missed out the middleman and cut the players’ salaries by 70 per cent, saving 32 million euros per month. Even a club with a billion-euro budget needs to take stock.

It isn’t just about football, it’s about business. The Nou Camp museum handles 10,000 visitors a day in peak season. Real Madrid employs eight hundred people in its many departments.

It is reported that there are 184,626 jobs in Spanish football so that is 184,626 livelihoods that need some protection. The financial experts estimate it will cost one billion euros if the season is cancelled; 300 million if it resumes in empty stadia and 160 million if normality returns with fans at the games. Numbers are boring but so significant.

The players need a slice of reality. They argue that they’re being singled out for special treatment and citing other high earners. In the entertainment industry, shows and concerts are being cancelled and in other sports, like boxing and golf, events are getting postponed - so it isn’t just football.

There was a directive to stop posting on social media from their private gyms as people struggle with life. It’s a little extreme but these are extreme times.