Tottenham Hotspur is rightfully catching a lot of criticism from its supporters and elsewhere for its decision earlier this week to furlough 40% of its non-playing staff and to take advantage of the UK government’s plan to cover 80% of those affected workers’ wages. Spurs also cut 20% off of the salary of non-furloughed workers, including executives.
Spurs aren’t the only club to do this — as of the time of this posting, Newcastle, Norwich and Bournemouth have all also taken advantage of the government’s furlough plan — but they are the only club who are not further supplementing in order to make sure that affected staff receive their full pay.
This has caused no small amount of outrage from Spurs’ own supporters that they, one of the ten richest clubs in the world, are not fully supporting their workers in what is an unprecedented time of crisis, especially after Spurs released their 2018-19 financial statement that showed record profits and huge executive bonuses. Yesterday, the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, the club-recognized fan organization, released a statement decrying Spurs’ actions and calling on them to do more, not only on the executive side, but also on the player side.
“What has most angered fans, who care that their club does the right thing, is that an organisation that is perceived to be very wealthy is cutting staff pay and asking for government help while the most well-remunerated individuals under its umbrella maintain their earnings. This anger is not exclusive to the Spurs community, but the Club’s reputation as a wealthy and well-run business means it is in the spotlight.
“THST has always tried to avoid grandstanding, preferring to establish facts. We adopted the same approach this time, asking the Club for a fuller explanation and making supporter sentiment very clear. We have strongly recommended that the Club explains the detail and nuance to supporters with far more clarity than it has currently, and we hope it will take that advice. While all businesses, not just football clubs, need to plan for a time when what is currently unimportant becomes important again, what is done now will affect reputations in future.
“There has also been some inaccurate reporting in the media, which has further affected that reputation. We are aware that no football club can impose contract changes on its playing or coaching staff without agreement with the respective unions, the PFA and LMA. So the comment that THFC has chosen to cut non-playing staff wages while choosing not to cut playing staff wages is inaccurate. But there is nothing to stop the Club’s players making a voluntary contribution to ensure that the most vulnerable do not bear too great a burden. And there is nothing to stop the Club’s Directors, including the Chairman, making a further personal contribution on top of their 20% wage cuts. Points we have made directly to the Club Board and will continue to do so. We have made it clear that this is a course of action fans would overwhelmingly support.”
— Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust
Currently, the PFA and LMA are resisting calls for unilateral pay cuts or suspensions, arguing that players’ weekly salaries are contracted. This comes as Premier League executives and even the head of the National Health Service call for a 25% cut in player wages during this crisis. It is notable, however, that while there are calls for players to sacrifice their contracted wages during this crisis, there have been few calling for further contributions from super-wealthy owners of top football clubs, including Tottenham’s Joe Lewis. The implication from the PFA is that, while an agreement will likely come to see players lose some of their salaries in the short term, despite the optics of rich players earning millions for not working, players are still considered labor for huge companies overseen by wealthy clubs run by millionaires.
“We are aware of the public sentiment that the players should pay non-playing staff’s salaries,” the PFA said. “However, our current position is that — as businesses — if clubs can afford to pay their players and staff, they should.”
— New York Times
Tribune Magazine, in an opinion piece published today, excoriated owners of elite football clubs for not stepping up to financially support their lowest-paid workers and players during the shutdown, and used Tottenham and Newcastle United as specific examples of how football has “plumb[ed] a new depth for an industry that has already lost much of its soul to capitalism.”
“[Tottenham and Newcastle] are two particularly bad cases, but the rot here goes deeper than a few bad individuals. As with Tim Martin or Richard Branson, the fault is not just with the individual bosses but with the system that has allowed industries — in this case football — to become a vehicle for wealth extraction and corporate malpractice.
“This is the latest in a long line of abuses by the capitalists who have captured our football clubs. Inequality is now hardwired into the game, and the average fan is crushed underneath the weight of dodgy owners, rising ticket prices, and the absurdities of clubs being run as sport-washing vanity projects by corrupt oligarchs. Even the burgeoning women’s game is suffering the strain of financialisation, and a decade of austerity means that football is now more inaccessible for young people than ever before.”
— Tribune Magazine
This certainly will not be the end of the story. Since Tottenham’s announcement, every one of Tottenham’s tweets on social media has been answered by a flurry of replies of “Pay the staff” by Spurs fans.
can i get a "pay the staff" going in the chat pic.twitter.com/uDEPo5RlN2— quarantinho (@ComradeYouSpurs) April 2, 2020
Thus far Tottenham have not issued any further statements on their decision about wage cuts and staffing, and there is no indication right now that they are planning to change course anytime soon. At present, only thing Spurs’ decision has done is cast the club in a very poor light and illustrated on how not to deal with an unprecedented financial crisis.