Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
A matter of days ago, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called upon Premier League players to ‘play their part’ and take a pay cut during the COVID-19 pandemic. This accordingly saw all Premier league clubs act on the Secretary of State’s words and ask their players to take a 30% cut until fixtures resume.
These developments have provoked a strong backlash from the footballing community, with current and ex-players alike, such as Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville, Danny Rose and Andros Townsend, criticising both the premise and the hostile ‘anti-footballer‘ culture this proposal is creating, more generally. While a glance at this ‘selfish’ reaction from high-profile personnel of the sport will rightly anger and infuriate many – considering Premier League footballers earn an average of £3 million per year and are currently doing nothing to obtain this vast sum of cash every week – while the League is suspended until April 30 at the earliest.
Yet the aforementioned players are right to be concerned by this proposal. An enforced and universal 30% pay-cut for Premier League players would do more harm than good. Under the current system, all Premier League players must legally reside in the country in order to play for their respective team and must, therefore, pay their taxes to the UK Treasury under the Pay-as-you-earn tax scheme,(PAYE), unlike many other British sportsmen. At the current rate of taxation, Premier League footballers must handover 45% of their salaries, alongside any national insurance-related taxation. When one considers that there are 20 teams in the Premier League – each with around a 25 man squad – we currently have 500 professional sportsmen handing over close to half of their earnings. In real terms, this means roughly £1.4 million tax revenue is coming in annually per player and roughly £7 billion revenue is being created over the year in total. Therefore, any universal pay cut of any percentage even over a short period of time would result in less revenue for the government, less money for the NHS, and more money kept in pockets of billionaire football club owners who would no longer have to pay their players as much as once did. As The Professional Footballers’ Association rightly points out, this 30% pay cut equates to more than £500 million in wage reductions over 12 months, and a loss in tax contributions of more than £200 million over this short period alone.
Am I saying that footballers are having a ‘really hard time during the pandemic’? No.
Am I saying that footballers are not paid enough? Not at all.
Am I saying the UK Government and the Premier League are going about obtaining more revenue from wealthy footballers the wrong way? Yes!
While I have absolutely nothing against the clubs and managers who have taken the pay cuts so far – including England manager Gareth Southgate – if the Premier League is serious about helping vital public services, then they should be giving far more than the measly £20 million they currently have set up in a charitable fund. Yes, they are not the state. Yes, it’s only a token gesture. But if they are serious about providing proper help of any substance during those torrid times, they should at least be contributing more than £1 million over what Manchester City paid for Brazilian flop Jô in 2008. Premier League clubs have the money and means to make a difference to all those affiliated with the club off the field alone, such as their employees, and should be encouraged to do so. Clubs should certainly be fully paying their off-field employees with their own revenue, not that of the tax-payer during the league’s postponement. I find it sickening and utterly despicable that teams such as Liverpool and Tottenham are using this public bailout scheme to their own benefit, and not their own money. The billionaire owners of football clubs should extend their money and means to the city and community as a whole, albeit on a smaller level. After all, clubs kitchens will still have an amass of food in their training and stadium catering facilities and thus should be giving these supplies to local homeless charities free of charge, just like Aston Villa did on March 13. After all, it looks likely that the Premier League will not resume on April 30; this food will go to waste otherwise. The individual footballers likewise can and should make use of their earnings and influence to make a real difference and go directly to the people and organisations who need it the most. They should continue to donate to local and national charities – something many players have done and continue to do behind closed doors – and actually stay to home under this pandemic.
As for the Government, these proposals will not give the NHS more money and further will introduce social division and infighting at the worst time. While Matt Hancock’s remarks were no doubt well-intentioned, this idea is populist in nature and cheaply intended to increase the government’s popularity at this time of desperation, at the expense of an easy target. Instead of singling out footballers as ‘the problem’, the government should instead seek out and close all tax-loopholes and enforce higher taxation levels, if required, on all high-earners such as the club owners themselves, so that the NHS can actually obtain the extra money it desires. Lastly, if the government is fixated on bringing high-earning sportsmen ‘to justice’, why not start with six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton? Whilst proclaimed a ‘national hero’, he is keeping every penny of his current annual £40 million salary safely tucked away in his Monaco bank account.