Barcelona are studying the possibility of applying a pay cut of up to 70% to all of their players for as long as the coronovirus lockdown lasts in Spain. The players are understood to be receptive to a reduction in salary and discussions are ongoing but no agreement has yet been reached.
The intention is for any measures to apply equally to every athlete at the club, from the men’s and women’s football teams to the B team and the Under-19s to those who play basketball, handball, futsal and roller hockey. It would also apply to staff working with those teams.
Barcelona are the only Spanish first division football club so far to admit that they are looking into the possibility of measures to palliate the economic impact of the COVD-19 pandemic, although the league announced in a statement that it would support its members in any measures they deem necessary. As the crisis continues, more clubs are expected to follow suit.
Labour legislation in Spain allows for companies to apply ERTEs – temporary measures to lay off staff or reduce wages in circumstances such as these – but Barcelona prefer to reach a negotiated settlement. Staff in non-football departments are resigned to the probability that they will be affected. The TV company that owns the rights to La Liga in Spain has announced that it will apply an ERTE to more than a thousand staff.
Barcelona held remote meetings late last week and again on Tuesday. They had a positive response from the club captains. The initial proposal was for the reduction to last as long as the country is in lockdown, after which the players would go back to earning 100% of their salary, even if competition does not return and the league remains unfinished. Spain’s state of alarm was announced on 11 March and is set to continue until at least 11 April.
Barcelona’s economic situation is precarious and there are concerns that they may not be able to meet some of their payments if the season is not completed. Of an annual budget of €1.047bn (£970m), 66% was spent on wages last season, down from 70% the season before but considered too high. The projection was 61% this season but that target is unlikely to be met now.
Meanwhile the English Football League is working with the Professional Footballers’ Association to determine a solution to financial matters, notably player wages. An outcome is being sought that will ease clubs through the coming weeks and months, with football suspended until at least 30 April.
Leeds United are among several Championship clubs to have held discussions between directors and players about deferring wages for the foreseeable future. The Leeds director of football, Victor Orta, and the chief executive, Angus Kinnear, discussed it with players on Tuesday and, in the event such a measure is enforced, it is understood the wages of the head coach, Marcelo Bielsa, and his backroom staff would also be deferred. Leeds have five remaining home fixtures, each of which earns around £700,000 in matchday revenue.
It is understood discussions with the PFA stemmed from a conference call between Championship clubs last week, when they talked about potential strategies for alleviating the strain of player wages on finances at a time when there is little to no income.
Some clubs operate with significantly higher wage bills than others and, for some, the short-term financial hole created by the absence of matchday revenue is bearable. Birmingham City have requested their players who earn more than £6,000 a week to take a temporary 50% wage cut, and many other second-tier clubs are believed to exploring similar solutions.