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Arsenal the first team to implement player wage cuts during COVID-19 crisis

The Gunners’ first team will voluntarily cut their wages by 12.5% for the next year.

Club Badge - Arsenal Football Club Photo by Visionhaus

This is not an article about Tottenham Hotspur, but it is about a topic that’s tangental to Spurs as as all football clubs continue to grapple with the financial realities brought by the COVID-19 crisis. Today, the Guardian is announcing that Arsenal’s first team players will be taking a voluntary 12.5% cut to their wages for the next year to help offset the club’s financial losses during the crisis. The agreement is set to be finalized and formally announced within the next two days.

The agreement, which the Guardian says was facilitated by Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and will be unanimously agreed to by the first team, has been in the works for the past two weeks and is separate from the negotiations between the Pro Footballers’ Association and the heads of the Premier League and Football Association, which remain ongoing.

The agreement also includes a performance clause, by which the players will apparently see their money returned to them should they qualify for the Champions League yet this season, assuming of course that the season isn’t canceled altogether.

I remain extremely conflicted by the idea of clubs cutting the wages of their contracted players. On the one hand this is an unprecedented situation whereby clubs have no real concept yet of the financial implications of an extended period of time with no income, and player wages remain the largest percentage of any Premier League clubs’ operating budget. On the other hand, these are massively huge and wealthy organizations, often run by billionaires, and it feels like players agreeing to have their contracted wages cut benefits the wealthy owners of the clubs far more than it does the players themselves. Not to mention that a number of players are also set to miss out on contractually obligated performance- and appearance-based clauses if the season is canceled or truncated, meaning they could be set for a double-whammy.

The Guardian does note that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has put some skin into the game, making “a significant contribution to shore things up” (though it’s cagy on whether this is a loan or cash injection) and that’s certainly more than Spurs owner Joe Lewis has done or probably will do. On the other hand, this still feels like owners profiting on the backs of labor, and it’s done apparently without the blessing of the players’ union, the PFA.

I don’t know. Arsenal is the first Premier League team to announce this kind of arrangement with their players, but they almost certainly won’t be the last. While every club is different, it feels kind of gross to see this coming from a club that is still extremely wealthy.

It’s easy for me to criticize Tottenham’s arch-rivals doing something like this, but I know Spurs don’t have a leg to stand on, and I have no doubt in my mind that this could very easily be Tottenham making this exact announcement or one very similar, at any point in the near future.