Great Britain

PFA and Gordon Taylor cannot ignore crisis any longer as pay cut stand-off threatens future of football

GORDON TAYLOR might have ignored the barbs of Lord Sugar.

After all, Tottenham fans, despite their gripes with Daniel Levy, could not wait to see the back of the star of The Apprentice.

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He might also have dismissed the concerns of Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, there to reflect the views of the 20 top-flight clubs.

But Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Taylor cannot afford to blank Greg Clarke’s demands that the damaging stand-off between the clubs and the players is ended, quickly.

When the FA chairman points out the very future of some clubs is at risk and that football “faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it”, he is not grandstanding.

That is the reality — harsh and brutal — and the consequence of an unprecedented situation.

And it is why Taylor must consider putting aside his differences with club chiefs and help resolve a growing debacle.

The union leader’s personal donation of £500,000 to the player-led NHS fund was recognition he has played the past 24 hours badly, despite “winning” the previous two days.

With the PFA pitching in £1million and his senior union colleagues digging into their own pockets, it was a necessary move after an own goal when Taylor — who pockets £2m a year — said he would not be making a salary sacrifice.

The 75-year-old seemed to be seeking some compromise as he insisted: “It is not for me to tell clubs how to run their businesses. It is for me to look at the players’ side of things.

“A football club is an entity involving non-playing staff, youngsters, the academies, the community programmes in their own areas and the bigger picture of the national health.

"Players are mindful of their social responsibilities and they are quite prepared to step up to the mark to deal with it.”

And Taylor cannot ignore that social aspect.

He knows clubs, especially down the pyramid, are at the heart of their communities.

If those clubs go bump, the impact on thousands of people — not just fans but suppliers and local businesses — will be immense.

As Clarke, in his video-conference address to the FA council explained, this IS a crisis.

He said: “Football has been hit hard by effectively closing down its business.

“From grassroots through the semi-professional pyramid to the professional game, clubs have closed, games are cancelled, terraces are empty and cash flow has stalled.

Everyone should understand the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this

“Everyone should understand the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this.

“They are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base but the potential overall financial impact is huge.

“Those that lost their clubs because English football did not rise to the challenge would rightly judge us harshly.”

Clarke’s message was far less direct than Lord Sugar’s assault, in which he blasted: “I would stand up against Gordon Taylor, tell him to shut it, then ask the players to take a cut for a while.

“People need to understand most clubs run from hand to mouth on income coming in to pay players and staff. If the shutdown carries on for months, some clubs will be insolvent and go bust.

"Gordon Taylor is no help telling players clubs are owned by billionaires and they shouldn’t take cuts.”

Prem boss Masters, responding to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s demands for action — with his letter described as “frankly laughable” by Tory MP Julian Knight — was similarly doom-laden.

He reiterated fears of a minimum £1BILLION loss if the season cannot restart, maintaining: “We are losing revenue at an unprecedented level.

“Ultimately, the very heavy losses we face will have to be dealt with or else clubs will go out of business. We do not say this lightly — it is a very real threat.”

TOUGH DECISIONS

Masters’ position has been hit by Prem clubs furloughing staff although he pointed out: “Clubs are facing tough decisions to protect their future and their employees.

“The furlough scheme is meant for the whole economy, including many enterprises which might be regarded as providing entertainment or otherwise dependent on elite talent.”

It is not just English football that is in trouble, with LaLiga boss Javier Tebas revealing Spanish football is facing an £880m-plus black hole.

The FA, of course, is coming under renewed pressure to reverse the decision to close down most of the non-league season.

Clarke admitted: “We are committed to finishing the professional football season. This resolves the issues of promotion and relegation, together with title winners on merit.

“We may not be able to finish the season. Football is not our priority, human life is.

“So we must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted.”

That means wage deferrals for the Prem stars, with Taylor accepting they may be necessary “in the hope that we could keep this season going eventually”.

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And, of course, the increasing likelihood of matches being played behind closed doors.

Taylor added: “This is a unique situation. If we can’t play in front of full stadiums, then the different scenarios would be looked at at the time.”

In terms of the image of football, that time has run out. For everyone.

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