THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES

The 'moral vacuum' of the Premier League

Inspirational thought for the day: just because there’s no football, doesn’t mean you can’t score PR own goals! Hooray, then, for the Professional Footballers’ Union and the Premier League. Keeping things going when times are strange. Salud.
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According to Julian Knight MP, the Premier League is living in a “moral vacuum”. This follows the decision of a number of clubs, most notably Tottenham, to avail themselves of governmental relief money by furloughing non-playing staff while the players, some of whom earn more than seems sensible, proceed apparently untroubled. Says Knight:
This isn’t what [the Coronavirus Relief Scheme] is designed for. It’s not designed to effectively allow them to continue to pay people hundreds of thousands of pounds, while at the same time furloughing staff on hundreds of pounds. I don’t know whether or not the Treasury can legally turn down these applications. But at the same time I think football needs to have a good, long, hard look at itself.
The Premier League is lagging well behind Europe on this: a number of playing squads across Europe, including Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Juventus, have agreed cuts or deferrals. So far only Leeds and Birmingham, apparently unilaterally, have taken similar steps in England. And the case of Tottenham seems particularly pointed, given that their chairman is literally a multi-billionaire.

Daniel Levy

Image credit: Getty Images

Of course, it’s not just as simple as Spurs saying “Lads, we’re cutting your wages. Thank you.” The line from the papers this morning is that clubs are worried that their players will resist pay cuts altogether, and that the PFA will only consider deferrals. Meanwhile, the BBC reckon that the PFA want to see evidence of individual clubs' financial situations before making any decision on cuts. It is worth remembering that much of football is a precarious business, for clubs and for players.
But still, when it comes to the top of the Premier League, it’s not a good look. And we’d imagine that some measure of cuts, at least for the Premier League’s richest, will be announced soon. Not necessarily because it’s the right thing to do, perhaps, but because there are brands to be protected, for players and for clubs. This is not a time for hardball.

Tottenham’s decision to cut staff pay ‘completely unacceptable’

European football further postponed

You can take any hopes you had that the Champions League might be returning in June, and you can wave them a sad goodbye from a distance of two metres or more: Uefa will not be holding any football matches in June, and the Champions League and Europa League remain on hold “until further notice”.
In addition, June’s scheduled internationals have been put on hold, including the Nations League play-offs for Euro 2020. It's been a tricky first few years for Uefa’s latest competition. Just when everybody starts to get a handle on the format, a global pandemic rolls around to muck everything up. But on the other hand, the Euros aren’t happening until 2021, so there’s still time.
We had some relevant news from outside football as well: for the first time since the second World War, there will be no tennis at Wimbledon this summer. The organisers cite “the concerns brought about by mass gatherings and the strain on the medical and emergency services, as well as movement and travel restrictions both within the UK and around the world”, and “that the people, supplies and services legally required to stage The Championships would not be available at any point this summer.”
It's hard to see how absolutely all of that wouldn’t apply to football too, right? And tennis even has a net to keep the players apart! It could be a long break, this.

Euro 2021 to become Euro 2022

Not all football’s postponements are open-ended. The men’s Euro 2020 has bounced back to 2021, and so has the Olympics. Therefore the original Euro 2021, the women’s tournament, will apparently in turn move back to 2022.
(Uefa haven’t actually announced this yet, oddly enough, but have been scooped by the Danish FA. Thanks, Denmark!)
Luckily for everybody, that summer is relatively football-free, since Qatar 2022 won’t be happening until the winter time. Thank you, Sepp Blatter. Thank you, Michel Platini. Thank you, Qatar 2022. Good job you couldn’t get those artificial clouds working.
But thinking about it, if the knock-on from the coronavirus affects not just the timing of this season (2019-20) but the next, 2020-21, and then the men’s World Cup lands in the middle of 2022-23, we might be looking at just one “normal” football season in the next four years. What a fine mess this all is.

IN OTHER NEWS

Absolutely sensational work here. L’oeuf in the time of corona.

RETRO CORNER

One of football’s funnier “days of shame” happened 15 years ago today. Towards the end of a 3-0 humbling by Aston Villa, Newcastle team-mates Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer turned on one another and had a bit of an on-field scrap. Off they both went, red faced and steaming. A nation pointed and laughed.
… although, as a postscript, we should note that both Bowyer and Dyer were outdone in the comedy stakes by Newcastle’s other dismissal. For this is the game where Steven Taylor handled the ball on the line, then went down clutching his side as though picked off by some distant sniper. Truly, some weeks contain decades.

HAT TIP

Over on The Guardian, via Get French Football News, here’s a look back at the moderately remarkable life of Pape Diouf, the first black president of a top-tier European football club, who died this week after contracting coronavirus.
He also made headlines that season with the “Match of the Minots” at the Parc des Princes. Marseille and PSG have one of France’s most fiercely contested rivalries and on the occasion, Diouf, who was at odds with France’s governing body, the LFP, over security at the match and the number of places away fans would be afforded, sent a reserve side, who famously earned a scoreless draw. He did not endear himself to the powers that be in France in that episode, but he became a near-immediate legend at Marseille.

COMING UP

Here tomorrow to bring you news of the remarkable generosity of the Premier League’s players in this time of international crisis, Tom Adams
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