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La Liga: Players Contest Wage Cuts Amid COVID-19 Crisis

The continued postponement of the La Liga season due to the coronavirus pandemic is taking quite the financial toll on the league and its clubs.

As a result, clubs have resorted to asking their players to take significant pay cuts to mitigate the negative economic effects of COVID-19.

Reigning champions Barcelona, who were the favourites to win another title according to the La Liga 2020 betting odds before the halt in play, kicked things off as they became the first Spanish top-flight club to announce a pay cut, which amounted to 70 per cent of players’ wages.

They also took an additional pay cut to make sure non-playing staff continued to earn their full salaries.

Barca captain Lionel Messi sent out a public statement in response to reports that the players had rejected a plan to have their salaries reduced.

Messi clarified that the squad was always willing to take a pay cut and condemned the fact that there was internal pressure from the club to do something they were always going to do.

Aside from Barca, Atletico Madrid also announced a similar 70 per cent pay cut. The first-team squad, directors, and Diego Simeone — the highest-paid manager in the world — also donated to make sure the rest of their staff continue to get their full payments.

Diego Simeone takes a pay cut to mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19 to La Liga club Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simone instructs his players during their Champions League clash against Liverpool

La Liga has suggested other clubs follow Barcelona and Atleti’s lead and cut players’ salaries to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

“We are urging clubs to initiate ERTEs (in essence a furlough) due to the special measures the government has taken to avoid and alleviate the negative impact COVID-19 is having on our sector so we are able to guarantee that the sector recovers when the crisis is over,” said a statement from La Liga on Friday.

But while the Spanish players’ association has agreed that they are willing to reduce their salaries, they have pushed back on the league’s proposal that players must shoulder nearly half of the league’s estimated losses due to the postponement of games.

La Liga is reportedly estimating that it will lose nearly 1 billion euros (956.6 million) if games don’t resume. The proposed cuts in players’ wages would account for 451 million euros or 47 per cent of losses if the season can’t start up again.

They will also account for 46 per cent if matches are played behind closed doors (140 million of 303.4 million), and 49 per cent if matches are played in full stadiums (77 million of 156 million), which seems highly unlikely at this point.

With no agreement in place over the size of the pay cut players would have to take, the league put out a request that clubs put players on government furlough, a move which the Spanish players’ association has spoken out against.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

The players’ association contests that the league should have created a financial cushion for this period and added that furloughing players should only be considered once the league is officially cancelled.

Spain currently has the second-most cases of COVID-19 in the world with 130,000, with over 12,000 deaths. The country is expected to remain in lockdown until the end of April and there is no timetable for La Liga to resume.

The league has also said it will recommend a “minimum of 15 days” of practice before the games can restart.

La Liga is not alone as talks about footballers taking significant pay cuts rages on in other countries. In England, there is a call for Premier League players to take a 30 per cent pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Top-flight footballers are handsomely compensated professionals and can certainly survive a pay cut. But some players significantly more than others, which puts into question the fairness of the league slashing 30 or 70 per cent of wages across the board.

Moreover, there is also the issue of clubs, particularly ones who bring in massive sums in revenue, electing to furlough other staff instead of continuing to pay them from their own pockets.

These are just some of the factors to consider in terms of the whole player pay cut debate. But hopefully, La Liga and the players can come to terms on some sort of compromise in the near future and that there will still be more La Liga 2020 highlights to come.

 

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