Coronavirus: Southampton the first Premier League club to impose pay cuts on high earners

Manager Hasenhuttl and the Saints squad are among high earners at St Mary’s who will defer part of their salaries for April, May and June

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Southampton have become the first Premier League club to agree to wage deferrals as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl and the entire Saints squad are among high earners at St Mary’s who will defer part of their salaries for April, May and June as part of their attempts to deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic.

The Southampton players have led the way in England’s top flight in taking a temporary reduction in their own pay to protect jobs at the Hampshire club while directors, led by CEO Martin Semmens, and Hasenhuttl’s backroom staff will also be deferring part of their wages.

Southampton have confirmed they will not furlough staff using the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in April, May or June, with their owners guaranteeing that lower-paid employees will continue to receive all of their salaries.

Newcastle, Tottenham, Norwich and Bournemouth have already furloughed some off-field staff while Liverpool reversed their decision to do so after a backlash from supporters and former players.

While other clubs, including Manchester City and Manchester United, have said they will not furlough staff, Southampton's move is likely to lead to pay cuts or wage deferrals among players at other clubs, with talks having taken place at some of their rivals.

The Premier League had called for players to take 30 per cent pay cuts last week, which the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) was resisting.

The game is facing two different scenarios, which would result in different levels of damage to clubs. If the season is completed behind closed doors, it would leave a hole in their budgets from the loss of matchday revenue – in Southampton’s case, for their four remaining home games.

But Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has warned Coronavirus could cost the division at least £1 billion (Dh4.56bn) if the season is not completed, with domestic and overseas broadcasters owed about £750 million.

Bournemouth are the most dependent on television revenue, which accounts for 88 per cent of their income, while Burnley chairman Mike Garlick warned his club could lose £50m if the season is not completed.

Masters said in a letter to the parliamentary select committee for digital, culture, media and sport: “We face a £1 billion loss, at least, if we fail to complete season 2019-20 and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends into the future.

“Ultimately, the very heavy losses that we face will have to be dealt with or else clubs and other enterprises who depend on football for income will go out of business.  It is a very real threat."

Southampton’s financial results had already presented cause for concern. They made a £34m loss in 2018-19, when wages accounted for 77 per cent of their turnover of £149.6m. With 34 points, they were on course to stay up when football was halted.

The club said: “The board of directors, the first-team manager, his coaching staff and the first-team squad have agreed to defer part of their salaries for the months of April, May and June to help protect the future of the club, the staff that work within it and the community we serve.”

Separately, on Wednesday, Premier League captains agreed to form a charitable fund, called #PlayersTogether, to raise funds for Britain's National Health Service. They are aiming to generate at least £4m.

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, Watford’s Troy Deeney and West Ham’s Mark Noble will administer the fund.

Noble has also donated £35,000 to a community effort to get food and medicine to those in need in Basildon.