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Players can take lead on pay burden


Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling is held back by Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Winks, Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld after clashing last month at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling is held back by Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Winks, Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld after clashing last month at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling is held back by Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Winks, Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld after clashing last month at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Professional footballers, Premier League players in particular, are accused of living in a bubble.

And it can be like that. You are in a bubble, you are protected all year round by your club, you don't focus on anything outside of football because that's all the club want you to concentrate on.

So right now, as the world struggles with Coronavirus and its impact, we need people who are in privileged positions to help out in any way they can.

Players do realise there are other people involved in the game outside of themselves.

When the players go in to train every day, these are the people who open the gates for them, the people on the reception desk, the people who wash their kit, who make their food, who give them a high five when they walk past.

They are the ones who players deal with every day, and most of the time players don't think, or worry, about how all of their lives are.

But now is the time to do that, to think.

And also to spare a thought for the players in the lower divisions who are going to need help the longer this goes on.

Players can't be forced to take wage cuts or a deferral of their wages. The debate has already started in the UK, with clubs like Hearts and Birmingham City saying they needed to do something in terms of the wage bill, whether if that's a simple cut in salaries or some sort of deferred payment.

But it's something that should be talked about.

If you have an Arsenal player on £350,000 a week, he could give £50,000 of that back to the club, whatever form that takes in terms of a gift or deferral of wages.

If each player did that it would more than cover the wages of all the support staff in the club, all those people who work away in the club offices or training grounds.

It would be a great sign of camaraderie if the elite players agreed to make financial sacrifices to help out those who earn a lot less at their own club, or to simply make a gesture of help to the wider world.

Some of them have done it already. I saw a story where Toby Alderweireld said he'd donate laptops and tablets to nursing homes so people could stay in touch with their loved ones, and Wilfried Zaha offered to make his properties available to the NHS. So there are footballers out there who know what's going on.

And then I read in the last 24 hours that the Barcelona players had refused to take a 70% pay cut, but there is more of that to come and that's not the end of that story.

If you ask a player who is on £300,000 a week to take half a wage for a few months, he can still pay his mortgage and pay his bills on £150,000 a week.

But the player down the leagues who is only on £2,000 a week will really suffer if he takes a 50% cut. The more a player earns, the higher his financial commitments over the course of his contact, players do stash a lot away in terms of investments and pensions.  

But the League Two player on £600 a week can't do that and he will struggle if his wages are reduced, or taken away.

I know that clubs are keen to get back playing but they also have to balance the books in the time that football is suspended and it will be hard for a lot of clubs to carry on paying wages through this crisis.

For the players' sake, especially those in the lower leagues you'd hope that the wages are just deferred, not taken away, and that they'll get their money back once football is up and running again.

People are always interested in how much the top players earn but the players don't all have access to their income.

If someone like Kevin de Bruyne (inset) is on £250,000 a week, he doesn't need that amount of cash to get through the week or to go to the shops on a Friday.

I would imagine he holds on to £20,000 and puts the rest away for investments.

Or some players would take the advice to just keep £50,000 in their bank balance at all times and invest the rest, but big earners in any industry would probably do the same as your income source can disappear very quickly.

If you have access to a lot of cash you end up spending it so it makes sense to invest as much as you can.

I was careful with my money... when I was a bit older. At the start of my career I wasn't as careful, but I copped on, started buying houses and investing, so the majority of your wages went into investing for the future.

I started doing that when I was 24 or 25 and I am really glad that I did, I know players who only started to invest their money when they were 30 and it was too late, their careers were winding down, but I had good advice.

You think you'll never retire, you'll always earn big money and that's a mistake. I knew at 25 that the end would come some day.

In this crisis, footballers can't make the world a better place but they can look after the people at their own club, people within football who are struggling.

The cleaners at the training ground, the canteen workers, the security staff, the people in the ticket office: if players agree to make a sacrifice on their wages and keep those people in a job, it's a sign that they care.

The players don't have to do that. They have contracts and can demand they are honoured. But it would be a great gesture for them to help out others.