After a terrible PR week that saw the club pressurized from all sides for its decision to furlough a sizable percentage of its non-playing staff, Tottenham Hotspur reversed course on Monday. In a statement released on its website, the club announced that it has heard the voices of its supporters and will be paying staff wages for April and May in full, instead of utilizing a governmental scheme by which furloughed staff were compensated by the UK at 80%.
Instead, the Tottenham board will take an undisclosed salary cut, ostensibly to help cover the costs of keeping its lower-salaried and paid workers from having their own wages garnished.
In our last update we said we would keep our position under review, especially in the context of revised budgets and cost cutting. Having done so we have decided that all non-playing staff, whether full-time, casual or furloughed, will receive 100 per cent of their pay for April and May. Only the Board will take salary reductions.
With no clarity on when football might resume and under what conditions, we shall continue to keep this under on-going review. We should like to thank our staff for their incredible support and understanding.
The turnaround is similar to what was done by Liverpool, which also had announced that it would use the government’s worker compensation plan only to reverse course and apologize to supporters a few days later. The statement from Tottenham was not an apology per se, but in a personal statement within Spurs’ release, chairman Daniel Levy expressed “regret” that the club’s decision caused anger and disappointment among its supporters.
“The criticism the Club has received over the last week has been felt all the more keenly because of our track record of good works and our huge sense of responsibility to care for those that rely on us, particularly locally.
“It was never our intent, as custodians, to do anything other than put measures in place to protect jobs whilst the Club sought to continue to operate in a self-sufficient manner during uncertain times.
“We regret any concern caused during an anxious time and hope the work our supporters will see us doing in the coming weeks, as our stadium takes on a whole new purpose, will make them proud of their Club.”
In addition to fully funding its staff during the shutdown, Tottenham announced that its new stadium will continue to be used to support the National Health Service during the COVID-19 crisis. Parts of the stadium have been converted into a supplementary maternity hospital (and can you imagine the future Spurs fans who will have literally been born in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium?!), and the area around the ground will be used for drive-up COVID-19 testing for NHS staff members and their families. The car park underneath the stadium is already being utilized as a food distribution hub for the needy.
The decision to reverse course is, of course, the right one. Spurs have decided not to use the governmental scheme at all now, instead paying its staff at 100% from its own budget. What this decision does make clear is that Spurs could have afforded to do this at any time, and simply chose not to, and that’s extremely disappointing and confirms much of the supporter-led criticism this past week. Many supporters will probably view this as too little too late, and one suspects that for a percentage of Spurs fans, the damage to the club’s reputation has already been done.
However, it is at least partially gratifying that the club has decided to listen to its supporters, and the voices of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, which had been very outspoken in its desire to hear a further explanation for the club’s decision. Now the hard work of repairing relations begins. Unfortunately it may take a while for Spurs to regain trust with its own fans, and that’s perhaps the saddest thing of all.