Pool apologise after furlough is slammed
Liverpool have decided to reverse the decision to place some non-playing staff on the UK Government’s furlough scheme as chief executive Peter Moore admitted they came to the “wrong conclusion”.
The Premier League club, who in February announced pre-tax profits of £42m (€48m) for 2018-19, were heavily criticised after they announced their intention to turn to the scheme during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the club’s fans, Moore said: “We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the coronavirus retention scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that.”
Moore added: “Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period.
“We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme.”
On Saturday, Liverpool announced they would follow the lead of Newcastle, Tottenham, Bournemouth and Norwich in furloughing some non-playing staff following the shutdown of football in the country.
Around 200 staff were understood to be affected - receiving 80 per cent of their salary through the government scheme with Liverpool topping up their wages to make sure no one was “financially disadvantaged”.
However, there was a heavy backlash to the announcement, with former Reds players Jamie Carragher, Dietmar Hamann and Stan Collymore taking to Twitter to express their displeasure. Former club captain Carragher said on Twitter following the latest update: “Well done @PeterMooreLFC @LFC a big mistake initially & thankfully now it’s been put right.”
Moore, though, sounded a note of caution to supporters, warning of “inevitable damage” to Liverpool’s financial position because of the Covid-19 crisis.
“Despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain,” he said.
“Like any responsible employer concerned for its workers in the current situation, the club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic.
“These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between.
“It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses.
“Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have.
“We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage.”
Furloughing staff was not a decision taken at Melwood, but one strategised between the offices in Chapel Street, Bloomsbury and Boston.
At the training complex, the reaction to the global pandemic has been as per manager Jurgen Klopp’s directive that “the first thing you have to do is be generous: generous with words, generous with feelings and generous with money of course as well. That’s what we do, that’s clear, wherever we can help we try to help, 100 per cent.”
The players contributed £40,000 to local foodbanks while Andy Robertson has also helped keep six in Glasgow and surrounding areas in operation.
The national committee fighting against coronavirus in Senegal was boosted by £41,000 from Sadio Mane.
Some on Liverpool’s roster have privately made “substantial donations” to Alder Hey and Liverpool Women’s Hospital, while captain Jordan Henderson has been co-ordinating with fellow Premier League skippers to organise a crisis fund for the NHS.
Klopp, his backroom team, senior Melwood executives and the players’ committee have been in discussions with owners Fenway Sports Group since elite football was suspended in England on 13 March.
They have been in agreement to contribute and make financial sacrifices for the greater good of all staff and society, working through exactly how that can be fairly put into effect and have maximum impact for where funds are needed most.
As such, Liverpool’s furlough announcement on Saturday not only felt unnecessary and hasty, but also unfairly made the squad a magnet for criticism.
Liverpool’s rivals Manchester United have told their staff members they will not be making use of the furlough scheme, with around 900 full-time employees understood to be paid as if they were working normally.
But anyone unable to work from home or those with reduced workloads have been strongly encouraged to volunteer time to the NHS or their local communities.
Meanwhile, a streaming service has written to the Premier League to defer payments due to the suspension of competition.
DAZN, which holds rights to stream all English top-flight matches in Brazil, Canada, Japan and Spain, is in negotiations to halt payments until clarity is given as to when and how the 2019-20 season can be completed.
The league announced last Friday that there was no prospect of professional football returning by the start of May, and was instead keeping a decision on when the game could safely come back amid the coronavirus pandemic under constant review.
DAZN said in a statement: “We don’t discuss commercial conversations but we’re, of course, in the process of working closely with partners to reach reasonable solutions given the unprecedented circumstances.”
Premier League clubs were reported to have told players in a conference call on Saturday that the cost of being unable to resume the season at all would be more than £1bn (€1.14bn).
It is estimated that of that £1bn, £762m (€869m) would be lost TV revenue, as rights’ holders either claw back money paid or withhold payments not yet made.
It is understood talks are continuing between players, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Premier League clubs over a 30 per cent wage reduction by way of cuts and deferrals.