Ex-players blasted Liverpool for their move to furlough non-playing staff on Saturday as Premier League clubs held talks over possible pay cuts for first-team staff due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Anfield club said they would top up the public money made available from the government to ensure staff received their full salaries.
It follows similar moves by Newcastle, Tottenham, Bournemouth and Norwich to take advantage of the scheme, under which employers can claim for 80 percent of furloughed employees’ wages.
But former Liverpool players Jamie Carragher and Stan Collymore strongly criticised the move by the European champions, who in February announced pre-tax profits of £42 million ($51 million) for 2018/19.
“(Manager) Jurgen Klopp showed compassion for all at the start of this pandemic, senior players heavily involved in @premierleague players taking wage cuts. Then all that respect & goodwill is lost, poor this @LFC,” tweeted Carragher.
Collymore was even more forthright, tweeting: “I don’t know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won’t be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloughing staff.”
Liverpool said staff would be paid 100 percent of their salaries to ensure nobody was financially disadvantaged.
A statement from the club said: “Even prior to the decision on staff furloughing, there was a collective commitment at senior levels of the club — on and off the pitch — with everyone working towards a solution that secures jobs for employees of the club during this unprecedented crisis.”
– Premier League under fire –
Clubs were due to speak with players’ representatives on Saturday over a combination of pay cuts and deferrals amounting to 30 percent of annual salary.
The Premier League has been seen as lagging behind other European leagues in its response to coronavirus and was accused by one British lawmaker of operating in a “moral vacuum”.
Barcelona and Bayern Munich have taken pay cuts while the squad of Italian champions Juventus, including Cristiano Ronaldo, have agreed to have their wages stopped for four months.
But Danny Rose, on loan at Newcastle from Tottenham, told the BBC that players were “keen to make something happen”.
“I can only speak for myself but I would have no problems whatsoever contributing some of my wages to people who are fighting this on the front line and to people who have been affected by what’s happening at the minute,” he said.
On Friday, a hospital in London identified Rose as the individual behind a £19,000 donation.
Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson has led talks between Premier League club captains over what action they could take, a move that began before Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday joined those singling out footballers.
“It was just not needed for people who are not involved in football to tell footballers what they should do with their money,” added Rose. “I found that so bizarre.”
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has backed players and managers to “do the right thing” by taking a pay cut and said any decisions made should be taken in a united way.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and Brighton counterpart Graham Potter have both taken voluntary wage cuts.
Burnley issued a stark warning on Saturday about the potential financial fallout from the coronavirus, warning they would face a shortfall of up to £50 million ($61 million) if it were not possible to complete the season.
“It’s a completely unprecedented situation that we and other Premier League clubs face and which we could not have foreseen in any way only just a few weeks ago,” said chairman Mike Garlick.
“It’s now not just about Burnley or any other individual club any more, it’s about the whole football ecosystem from the Premier League downwards and all the other businesses and communities that feed from that ecosystem.”
The Premier League said on Friday that the 2019/20 season would only return when it was “safe and appropriate to do so”.
The league agreed to provide a £125 million fund for the English Football League and National League and pledged £20 million in charitable support for the National Health Service and other groups.