As other English Premier League teams wrestle with payrolls of both playing and non-playing staff during the coronavirus pandemic, Southampton became the first EPL team to reach an agreement with players over wage deferrals.

Ralph Hasenhuttl-Southampton Manager
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl and the rest of his senior coaching staff agreed to defer part of their salaries for the next three months. (Image: PA)

Under the agreement, the entire first-team squad will take 10% pay deferrals through June. In addition, the team’s board of directors, manager and coaching staff will defer parts of their salaries for April, May, and June. As a result, lower-paid club staff will continue receiving full pay during the coronavirus pandemic.

The club said in a statement that the move will “help protect the future of the club, the staff that work within it, and the community we serve.” At the same time, the club confirmed it will not use the British Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough non-playing staff through June.

Under that plan, the government pays 80% of furloughed employees’ wages, with clubs paying the remaining 20%. Four other EPL teams, Newcastle, Tottenham, Bournemouth, and Norwich City, announced they will use the government’s plan. Liverpool did the same before reversing course amid a storm of criticism.

Previously, Premier League clubs said they would ask players to take a 30% cut to preserve jobs throughout organizations, with two-thirds of the cut restored if the current season is completed and there are no financial penalties from rights-holding broadcasters.

NHS Plays Key Role In Player Negotiations

The Professional Footballers’ Association, which represents the players, said pay reductions would hurt tax contributions to the National Health Service. The PFA issued a statement last Saturday claiming the EPL’s proposed cut would deprive the government of around £200 million in tax revenue.

Toward that end, and to stem criticism from Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the PFA came up with the #PlayersTogether initiative to generate funds for the NHS.

Negotiations between players and teams continue on a club-by-club basis. Those talks broke down last weekend, leading to the current impasse.

Southampton Officials Make Their Case

Southampton club officials explained their decision in a lengthy statement.

“Our owners, Mr. Gao and Katharina Liebherr, have put measures in place to ensure that all staff not deferring part of their salaries will continue to receive 100% of their pay, paid in the normal way until 30 June. Any decision on the future beyond this date will be made in advance of this, but only when more information is known.

“In these unprecedented times, we are dealing with many challenges to our business model and day-to-day operations. The situation is ever-evolving and we will continue to monitor and assess the impact to the club over the coming weeks before deciding any further actions necessary.”

The statement added that in keeping with government advice, all non-essential activities at the St. Mary’s Stadium and the team’s Staplewood campus will be suspended until at least the end of April.

The EPL season was suspended on March 19 through at least April 30.