Opinion: Like Mongrels growling over Liver - Players' Association advice unconscionable

By George Sylvester Davis April 02, 2020
PFA Chairman Gordon Taylor PFA Chairman Gordon Taylor

The 20 clubs in the English Premier League, EPL are together losing about US$31 million each weekend that action in the globe’s most-watched sporting competition is suspended. That figure covers matchday related income alone. Television rights account for the bulk of EPL teams’ earnings and collectively, the suspension in play, induced by COVID 19,  is causing the teams to lose an estimated US$920 million. That’s a revenue bleed that no financial analyst would have ever seen in their career, let alone having a strategy to staunch.

Every player in the first team squad of an EPL team is a millionaire. Every. Single. One. There are 512 players listed in the first team squads of all 20 EPL sides, an average of about 26 players for each club.

Manchester City’s 24-man first-team squad is paid an average basic wage of US$8.73 million each, the highest average in the league. Manchester United, which has the highest overall wage bill at US$396 million, pays its 27 first teamers an average of US$7.66 million each. At the bottom of the payscale is Sheffield United, which pays each of its 22 first teamers a basic average salary of US$910,000, while just above them is Norwich City, which pays its 27 first teamers a basic average wage of US$1.2 million each.

But enough of those big numbers for the moment. The point being made is that EPL players are among the best-remunerated individuals in the global workforce, regardless of industry. The basic wages paid to them comfortably eclipses the wage-plus-bonus-plus-benefits package taken home by some well-paid professionals in other fields. That is why so many people are disappointed at the refusal by EPL players, through their union, the Professional Footballers Association, PFA, to take a pay cut and allow their clubs to breathe in this moment.

Indeed 92% of participants in a recent YouGov survey believe EPL players should take a pay cut in this difficult time, with another 67% saying the players should surrender at least half of their salaries. 

People are not stupid. They know greed when they see it. And already, many on that red hot spit known as social media are roasting players for putting greed above benevolence, compassion and basic humanity.

They ask, how can these players continue demanding their hefty paycheques when many people who work in the unglamorous roles in professional football face the stark reality of being laid off by their struggling employers?

Indeed, the man leading the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Gordon Taylor has given life to the term irony by his staunch defence of the players’ rights to not have a dollar docked from their salaries. Taylor himself is a man who lives high on the hog. Afterall he can afford to.

In 2017, the now 75-year-old was paid a salary of US$2.7 million. No wonder that in this situation he guards his players’ interests like a mongrel, growling as he protects a piece of liver from a pesky fowl in his master’s yard. 

As Premier League officials meet with club executives and the PFA to reach a common position on wages, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Daniel Levy has made a clever move in what appears to be a chess match with his own players.

Levy announced that 550 non-playing staff had agreed to a 20% cut in their wages. He says the move allows the club to keep them all in employment during this period. Levy is among the 550. This move is no doubt intended to guilt trip Jose Mourinho and the 25 members of his first-team squad to do what the cleaning lady, kit man, groundsman, tea lady, club steward and janitor at Spurs have all done.

Levy never does anything without calculating the ramifications down to the last decimal point.

In announcing the pay cut, he exhorted players to do their bit to protect jobs. In other words, if Spurs’ players refuse to give up some of their wages, then the tears of any janitor, cleaner or groundsman who gets sent home for good in this period, will be on the players’ expensively clothed shoulders.

Haters need no invitation to criticise footballers for what they earn and how they live. But this situation is different.

Habitual haters apart, well-thinking folks are also disgusted that almost a month after COVID 19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO, the richest among us are having to be cajoled into giving up some of their earnings to allow businesses to establish a form of balance in this period of disequilibrium.

Per capita, the EPL is the richest sporting competition in the world by revenue. So why are its millionaires having to be begged to give up only a little to stabilize the business of the same employers who facilitate their massive earnings? If a janitor can give up 20% in pay, why can’t a man, who’s earning up to 200 times more per month, not do the same? This is unconscionable.

Selah.

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    Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard disagreed with Jose Mourinho's assessment that Tottenham were "just a pony" in the Premier League title race.

    Spurs returned to the top of the Premier League table following Sunday's 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.

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    "We are not even in the race so we are not a horse. We are the small, young horse – a pony. We are just a pony, and you see the difference," he told reporters. 

    "Joe Rodon was playing for Swansea. Thiago Silva was for many years and still is one of the best centre-backs in the world. And maybe one month of Thiago's salary pays Joe a year's salary. So, calm.

    "I'm very happy with Joe, very happy with the profile, and to be with my amazing coaching staff – Joao [Sacramento], Ledley [King], all these guys – coaching and teaching these guys, and working with Joe has been a pleasure.

    "I just feel sorry he can't play in the Europa League because it would be a great level of experience for him, and I believe the biggest game he played before this one was Championship play-offs and a Wales national team match, so I'm very pleased that he could come here and for 90 minutes he made one mistake.

    "[Eric] Dier made more mistakes than him, especially in ball possession, so I'm very happy with my team, very happy with my guys, very happy with this mentality – that we come to Stamford Bridge, we get a point, we are top of the league, and we are not happy."

    Mourinho used a similar analogy in early 2014 while in charge of Chelsea, and his side finished behind Manchester City and Liverpool in that season.

    Lampard, whose Chelsea are on their longest unbeaten run (14 games) since November 2018 and sit third in the table, disagreed with Mourinho and said Spurs had to be considered among the contenders.

    "It's Jose's call to say it how he sees it from his end but from the outside they're the top of the league, he's very close to the top. If we're contenders then they have to be contenders," he said.

    "I think if you've got Harry Kane and Son [Heung-min] in your team, Son's got nine goals, Harry's got seven.

    "They keep clean sheets well because of the organisation of their team. They would expect to be in the race. They've invested heavily, they've got people like Gareth Bale sitting on the bench. Dele Alli's not here, there's a strong squad there.

    "I think we're all competing. Jose can say it as he sees it."

  • Abraham urged to 'step up' as Chelsea draw a blank against Spurs Abraham urged to 'step up' as Chelsea draw a blank against Spurs

    A point gained, or two lost? Both Chelsea boss Frank Lampard and Tottenham counterpart Jose Mourinho felt their teams could have won a London derby that was big on pre-match hype but lacking in clear-cut chances.

    "That was a game where we respected them and they respected us," Mourinho told Sky Sports after the Stamford Bridge stalemate. A little too much respect, perhaps.

    The Premier League title hopefuls combined to manage four shots on target in a quickly forgettable contest that, like a loaf missing yeast, failed to rise.

    Lampard, meanwhile, reflected on a game where his team had the "handbrake a tiny bit up", even if a seventh clean sheet in nine outings shows they have some momentum to work with while parked nicely in third place in the table.

    One of the few openings came Chelsea's way as the capital clash neared a welcome conclusion, substitute Olivier Giroud not converting in added time when up against fellow Frenchman Hugo Lloris.

    Tammy Abraham watched on from the home bench as the man who had replaced him proved unable to grab a late winner. Abraham had moments to make a mark on proceedings before being replaced, only to fluff his lines on the big stage.

    There were a pair of inviting crosses from Reece James in the second half that were missed, while another delivery from Timo Werner – playing from the left in a front three – went begging.

    It summed up a frustrating outing for Abraham, whose 79 minutes on the pitch included four shots – none of which hit the target – along with 14 passes (he completed just 57 per cent of them) and 27 touches, a number only one better than his own team's goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy.

    The England international was a key figure in a successful first campaign under Lampard, scoring 15 league goals, but such exploits only lead to increased expectations.

    As former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink pointed out during Sky Sports' post-match coverage, the bar has been raised. If 2019-20 felt like a free swing for Lampard and his young squad, that early promise, coupled with substantial investment in the squad, has increased the pressure on all at the club.

    "He has to improve in those moments. He did ever so well last year when he came in, for half of the season he was a breath of fresh air, scored a lot of goals," Hasselbaink said of Abraham, who has started four games in a row in the league.

    "Second half of the season he had it tough, but it's normal because he's a young boy, but this season he needs to step up. With his stature, his ability, he should do better and score more goals and score more important goals."

    Abraham has three league goals so far in 2020-21, averaging one every 182 minutes. That compares unfavourably to last season, when he managed to score every 148 minutes.

    When it comes to big chances, the numbers are trending in the right direction. Last term he missed 22 such opportunities, but he has converted two of the four that have come his way so far in this campaign.

    Yet it is perhaps not too surprising that Abraham did not capitalise on James' delicious deliveries against Spurs, having scored just four of his 18 top-flight goals from crosses. Still, such openings cannot afford to be passed up now that the spotlight is more intense, both due to Werner's arrival from RB Leipzig and amid talk of a title tilt.

    "Sometimes I wonder if he watches clips of himself after the game, because sometimes his movement can be better, his hold-up can be better. He needs to keep on improving," Hasselbaink - who scored 69 times in the Premier League during his Chelsea career - added.

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    Jose Mourinho revealed Tottenham's players were left disappointed by the draw with Chelsea, with the Spurs boss lauding a "complete change of mentality".

    Spurs returned to the top of the Premier League table – on goal difference – thanks to a 0-0 stalemate at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as Mourinho arrested a two-match losing streak in the top-flight to his former star player Frank Lampard.

    Tottenham, who were 2-0 winners over Manchester City last time out, managed only five attempts, with just one of those on target, which came from Serge Aurier in the 15th minute.

    Chelsea, on the other hand, had 13 goal attempts, with Hugo Lloris called into action three times – twice late on to deny both Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud, who latched onto a Joe Rodon error in stoppage time.

    Mourinho believes the draw was a fair result but insisted his team were not happy, a reaction he believes shows the development of the players.

    "The one thing that I take from the game, that a draw here normally is a positive result," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

    "To go top of the league with that result is also a positive thing, and my dressing room is not happy – that's the best thing I take from the game.

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    "You can tell us we didn't have many chances, and I agree, but how many did they have? That's the thing that makes me really happy – we are not happy with a draw at Stamford Bridge."

    It was the first time Chelsea and Spurs – who are on eight and nine-game unbeaten runs respectively – have played out a goalless draw in the Premier League since November 2015, and the first time in a top-flight game at Stamford Bridge since March 2012.

    "It was a game without many chances. I believe it is a game where they wanted to win like we did, but we respected them and they also respected us, and nobody gambled, nobody tried to change the direction of the game," said Mourinho.

    "Everybody was in the situation of 'one mistake, I punish you, I win', especially in the last 15, 20 minutes. They had one shot from long distance, we had in the first half more than in the second half. A big game, a difficult game to play for both."

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    "It went how I sort of expected. I expected us to have a lot of possession and we did," said Lampard, whose side restricted Harry Kane and Son Heung-min brilliantly.

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