Norwich rule out reversing furlough decision during coronavirus pandemic

Despite significant criticism, the Canaries are standing by their call in an attempt to protect their staff in the long term

Norwich City have defended their decision to furlough staff during the coronavirus pandemic and will not make a U-turn just to boost their public image, having only taken such measures for employees “who literally cannot work”.

With revenue streams drying up following the Premier League’s suspension, the Canaries confirmed at the end of March they had begun the process of enrolling some members of staff in the United Kingdom government’s job retention scheme, meaning 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 per month would be paid by the state.

Soon after the club also confirmed the playing squad, coaching staff and executive committee had donated “over £200,000” to charity, but that has not been enough to spare them from criticism.

Tottenham, Liverpool and Bournemouth reversed their respective decisions to furlough some non-playing staff after a public backlash, but Norwich plan to stand by their initial choice.

“We’ve only furloughed members of staff who literally cannot work at this moment in time, so at least 50 per cent of the workforce are still working in lots of different areas across the club,” business and project director Zoe Ward said.

“We’ve taken this decision to protect staff, not only now, but in the future.”

Sporting director Stuart Webber added: “We won’t change just to be seen as changing for a little public perception. We stick to our beliefs and believe we’ve done it for the right reasons for our business. That’s what people forget – it’s a business.

“No-one will criticise Mercedes for doing it, but people do with a football club because they’ve got players and staff earning lots of money. Lots of businesses have lots of staff earning lots of money, who aren’t getting anywhere near the public attention that football clubs are getting.”

Webber also confirmed at no point did the club consider pay cuts or wage deferrals for the players, though that could be an option in future.

“They [deferrals] have never been discussed,” he said. “We’ve taken a different approach and have been in constant dialogue with our players, led by Grant Hanley as club captain and Timm Klose, who’s our PFA [Professional Footballers’ Association] rep.

“We’ve been in constant dialogue with senior players, their agents and the PFA, and our staff. We had a meeting this week and presented the potential impact.

“What we believe during this period, as an executive committee and the board above us, is it’s about education. It’s not just about sitting opposite someone behind a camera and backing people into corners. It’s about building trust, being completely transparent and honest. Everyone treats each other like adults.

“We’ve done that with our players, so they’re fully aware of the economic impact that this may cause. It’s very difficult at this point to say, ‘we are definitely going to lose X which means we need to reclaim Y’.

“Until that time comes and we get more clarity, we won’t be talking to any of our players or staff about deferrals. However, once the picture becomes clear there is going to be an amount of money which we’ve lost, and of course we’re going to have to talk to players and staff about what we can collectively do to try to fix this.”