By Balogun Damilola
Arsenal became the first Premier League club to agree a coronavirus pay cut with their players as manager Mikel Arteta and his stars slashed their wages by 12.5 percent on Monday.
After Southampton and West Ham announced wage deferral agreements with their players, Arsenal went one step further by securing the pay cut from Arteta and the first-team squad.
“We are pleased to announce that we have reached a voluntary agreement with our first-team players, head coach and core coaching staff to help support the club at this critical time,” Arsenal said in a statement.
“The move follows positive and constructive discussions. In these conversations, there has been a clear appreciation of the gravity of the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a strong desire for players and staff to show their backing for the Arsenal family.”
The pay deals come after a series of negotiations over the last two weeks amid a backdrop of criticism for Premier League players over their failure to agree quick wage cuts while some top-flight teams furloughed non-playing staff to save money.
The Premier League asked clubs to put a 30 percent pay cut to players, but the English Professional Footballers’ Association said that would affect tax contributions to the UK’s state-run National Health Service.
It was reported that Arsenal initially proposed a 12-month drop in salary for their players.
– ‘Financial risks’ –
After a muted response to their request, Arsenal were able to secure the agreement thanks to Arteta’s influence, according to reports.
Arteta, who has recovered after contracting the virus in March, spoke to his 27-man squad in a video call on Wednesday.
He is said to have made it clear that he would not engage them in discussions about money normally, but in this case he wanted them to take a strong collective stance in supporting Arsenal through the unprecedented financial mayhem caused by the pandemic.
There are reports that Arsenal, whose yearly wage bill is around £230 million ($286 million), will give players their money back in the event that they bridge an eight-point gap and qualify for the Champions League when football restarts.
“If we meet specific targets in the seasons ahead, primarily linked to success on the pitch, the club will repay agreed amounts,” the statement said.
“We will be able to make those repayments as hitting these targets, which the players can directly influence, will mean our financial position will be stronger.
“The agreement is based on the assumption we will finish the season 2019/20 and receive the full broadcasting revenues.
“The resulting savings will help cover some of the financial risks we have this season in relation to our matchday and commercial income.”
Last week, Arsenal announced that their executive team, including the chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and the head of football Raul Sanllehi, would waive more than a third of their earnings over the next year.
Premier League chiefs believe the virus could cost them around £1 billion if the season cannot be completed.
Football is currently suspended indefinitely in England, with the UK under lockdown.
“We are proud and grateful to our players and staff for pulling together to support our club, our people and our community in these unprecedented times which are some of the most challenging we have faced in our history,” the statement said.