The difficult choice facing Sheffield United's players over the coming days

Members of Sheffield United’s first team squad face a difficult decision over the coming days, as they face a choice between negotiating their own wage deferral plan with Bramall Lane’s hierarchy or showing solidarity with their union, the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Friday, 10th April 2020, 11:59 am

After talks between the Premier League and representatives of the PFA ended without agreement last week, further discussions are expected to take place over the coming days as the parties involved attempt to reach a compromise about to confront the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis.

Although the PFA would prefer to “achieve a collective position” for all of its members competing in the top-flight, those at Southampton broke ranks earlier this week by announcing they will voluntarily forgo 30 per cent of their salaries until competition resumes.

Although their decision is well-meaning, it could also threaten to weaken the PFA’s negotiating position on a number of other issues it is attempting to clarify with the PL, including how clubs will use any savings they make by reducing pay and the size of the governing body’s donation towards a number of NHS related charities.

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With Richard Masters, the PL’s chief executive, warning that some clubs could go bust unless the season is completed, his organisation proposed players should accept a 30 per cent reduction across a 12 month period during its teleconference with PFA officials. The issue of whether this should be in the shape of a cut or a deferral, as Southampton’s have accepted for the next three months, was not clarified.

“Many clubs require an increase in funding just to survive,” the PFA acknowledged in a statement. “We believe in our football pyramid and again stress the need for solidarity between all clubs.

“Going forward, we are working together to find a solution which will be continually reviewed in order to assess the circumstance of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The players are mindful that as PAYE employees, the combined tax on their salaries is a significant contribution to funding essential public services - which are especially critical at this time. Taking a 30% salary deduction will cost the Exchequer substantial sums. This would be detrimental to our NHS and other government-funded services.

Sheffield United's players must decide to wait for the PFA to reach agreement with the Premier League or negotiate their own wage deferral or cut: Clive Mason/Getty Images

“The proposed 30% salary deduction over a 12-month period equates to over £500m in wage reductions and a loss in tax contributions of over £200m to the government. What effect does this loss of earning to the government mean for the NHS? Was this considered in the Premier League proposal and did the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock factor this in when asking players to take a salary cut?

“We welcomed the opportunity to discuss this with the Premier League today and we are happy to continue talks.”

Goalkeeper Simon Moore, United’s PFA delegate, is tasked with briefing his team mates on the union’s position and providing its leadership with feedback from Bramall Lane.

A number of Moore’s colleagues are supporting the #PlayersTogether initiative, which has seen over 100 PL footballers make private donations towards the NHS and its associated charities, while others have made private donations towards causes close to their own hearts.

Chief executive of the PFA, Gordon Taylor: Steven Paston/PA Wire.

Without a game since the end of last month and following the indefinite suspension of the fixture calendar, independent analysts predict United, who are seventh in the table, stand to lose more than £40m if the schedule is not completed.

With a small number of full-time staff performing back office roles being placed on furlough, Wilder’s players acknowledge the need to settle the salary cut/deferral issue quickly.

“It is our priority to finalise the precise details of our commitment as soon as possible,” the PFA’s statement confirmed. “However, to achieve a collective position for all Premier League players - of which there are many different financial and contractual circumstances from club-to-club - will take a bit more time.”

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Football grounds are closed during thr coronavirus crisis: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

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