‘Furloughing wasn’t designed for billionaire owners’: Culture secretary Oliver Dowden warns Premier League sides that scheme should be ‘last resort’ and public will take ‘dim view’ of clubs like Tottenham taking advantage
- Premier League sides have been criticised for furloughing non-playing staff
- Liverpool were one of the first to announce decision before a dramatic U-turn
- Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich use government scheme
- Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said clubs should only furlough as ‘last resort’
Rich Premier League clubs should only furlough staff as a ‘last resort’ and the job retention scheme was not intended for ‘billionaire’ owners, warned culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
The coronavirus crisis has prompted a number of top sides to furlough non-playing staff but there has been a backlash with many critical of the wealthy teams choosing to take advantage of the program intended to help struggling businesses and employees stay afloat.
Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth, and Norwich have all furloughed non-playing staff, meaning the government will cover 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 per month.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned that furloughing is not for billionaire owners
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy opted to take advantage of the job retention scheme
Liverpool initially decided to take the same action but as one of the wealthiest and most community-driven clubs in the country, there was enormous outcry and they made a dramatic U-turn to reverse their decision.
More clubs are expected to take up the job retention scheme, but Dowden thinks the public will take a ‘dim view’ of them.
‘I just think they need to think carefully about whether they really need to take advantage of this,’ he said on Tuesday
‘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.
Mike Ashley-owned Newcastle told staff about being furloughed through and email from managing director Lee Charnley (right)
‘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.
He added: ‘I’ve made that pretty clear, this scheme wasn’t designed for the people who have millionaire players and billionaire owners, people should take responsibility, clubs should take responsibility.
‘I don’t want to get into a position as culture secretary of picking out individual clubs I’ve been very clear about what I expect and what I believe fans and the public at large expect.’
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy made the decision to have all 550 non-playing staff furloughed for an initial period of two months.
Bournemouth are utilising the scheme to place ‘a number of staff’ on paid leave and Mike Ashley-owned Newcastle informed staff of the decision in an email from managing director Lee Charley.
Liverpool initially chose to furlough non-playing staff but reversed the decision
When an employee is placed on furlough they are temporarily put on a leave of absence and not paid, although they remain on the payroll, meaning that they do not lose their job.
This could be because there is no work for these employees, or that the company is not able to afford to pay them, because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
In the United Kingdom, the Government is offering to pay 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s wages, up to £2,500 per month, until they are able to resume their job full time. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will last for at least three months from March 1.
Given the enormous financial strain put on clubs further down the football pyramid in England, Dowden urged Premier League giants to take responsibility and forgo using the scheme.
He continued: ‘I think it would be a real shame for us to be distracted by this debate around furloughing for a small number of clubs when they’re doing fantastic work elsewhere, the message to them is show some common sense because you’ve got so much to be proud of.
‘I think clubs should show restraint and by the way most clubs are not in this position.
‘There are lots of clubs at the lower levels who are really struggling at the moment and it’s right that they should be able to take advantage of furloughing because we want those clubs to be able to survive through this difficult period so that once we’re out of it, live sport will be able to resume.
‘Responsibility does need to be taken by the small number of clubs that it may not be appropriate for them to use this scheme.’