Can footballers be furloughed and are they still getting paid?

What is the status of stars at clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid and so on? Can they be put on job retention schemes?

The concept of furlough has become a central consideration of normal life in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, with governments across the world attempting to mitigate the potential economic damage of the crisis.

Football clubs have, like many other businesses, signed up to their respective national schemes, which see employees remain on the payroll with reduced salaries – subsidised by government – while placed on temporary leave.

Some clubs have taken steps to implement these measures for non-playing staff, but what about footballers themselves? Can they be furloughed?

Goal brings you everything you need to know.

Can footballers be furloughed?

Footballers can be furloughed, but the scheme only covers 80 per cent of an individual’s salary up to £2,500 a month before tax in the United Kingdom.

Footballers at the highest levels earn significantly more than that, but it would be particularly applicable to those who ply their trade in leagues further down the pyramid, where salaries are much lower.

Agreements will have to be reached between the leagues and player associations before any players are officially furloughed, with concerns lingering over the finer details, including the possibility that players will be able to leave on free transfers if their contracts are violated.

While £2,500 a month per player is a relatively low amount for elite clubs, it has been suggested that they could nevertheless take advantage of the scheme and continue to pay the difference, thereby saving money. Indeed, the London Evening Standard reports that some clubs believe they could save approximately £60,000 a month by availing of the government’s scheme.

However, it has been argued that the scheme, while theoretically universal, was not put in place to help Premier League clubs, whose players earn thousands and millions on an annual basis.

The UK’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This scheme is designed for struggling businesses to make sure, if they are faced with the position where they have to make staff redundant, rather than making them redundant they furlough them on 80% of their wages so they can bring them back when business picks up. 

“So football clubs should only be using it as a last resort, I think the fans and the public at large are going to take a pretty dim view if they’re not using it except in the last resort.”

A number of Premier League clubs were heavily criticised for signing up to the UK government’s furloughing scheme with regard to their non-playing staff, but some, including Liverpool and Tottenham, reversed their decisions. As noted, though, outside of the Premier League, furloughing is much more necessary and, indeed, palatable.

Elsewhere, in Spain, the Spanish footballers’ association (AFE) was critical of La Liga’s decision to ask clubs to place players on furlough in the absence of a coordinated approach to wage reduction, stating that their members would “not relinquish labour rights” during the coronavirus crisis.

The Spanish government’s furlough scheme is slightly different to that in operation in the UK, with the government offering to cover 70% of an individual’s salary, which is then reduced to 50% after a number of weeks.

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20

Are footballers still getting paid?

Footballers are still being paid during the coronavirus crisis, but many of them have agreed to take pay cuts or deferrals, while those who play in the lower divisions face an even more uncertain future.

Lionel Messi and the Barcelona players have taken a 70% cut to their salaries in a move designed to help the club continue paying non-playing staff, while a similar scenario happened at Juventus, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. agreeing to changes to their salaries that will reportedly save the Italian club €90 million (£81m/$101m).

In the face of increasing pressure from the UK government over prospective pay cuts, Premier League players collaborated on the #PlayersTogether movement, which aims to divert funds to the NHS and associated charities.

Each club is working directly with its players with regard to pay cuts, with West Ham and Southampton players having reached an agreement on wage deferrals, while Celtic confirmed that players would take “significant” reductions to their salaries as well as wage deferrals.

Karren Brady

Former Manchester United and Argentina star Carlos Tevez may be right to some extent that footballers “could live for six months or a year” without being paid, but the reality is that outside of the elite, many football clubs and footballers will struggle financially.

Even in the Premier League, the strain is being felt, with Burnley chairman Mike Garlick revealing that his club “will run out of money by August” if there is no resolution on the completion of the season and associated rewards. Arsenal, meanwhile, are also facing something of a financial black hole.

Those cash flow issues are undoubtedly magnified at clubs down the divisions, as chairman of League One club Walsall Leigh Pomlett acknowledged. Speaking on the When Sky Invented Football podcast, Pomlett said: “The PFA will need to accept the fact that footballers will have a reduction in wages for the duration of the coronavirus.

“That doesn’t mean that whatever we don’t pay them now, we’ll pay them in the future.

“That will create cash flow problems for the business, everyone from chief executive down will be facing a reduction in their wages and the footballers should be no exception to that.

“They are going to have to take a hit because everyone else is and it’s only right, proper and fair.”