Where does your club stand on pay cuts and furlough?
Aberdeen are set to make a statement confirming what they intend to do on Friday. Chairman Dave Cormack, below, went public last week and stressed no club in the land was safe from the financial impact of the shutdown. “No club, whatever their size, scale or level of investment, can withstand a total lack of income over a period of anything between three to six months,” he said. Cormack added that the board would recommend a plan of action in the coming days. “There have been further collaborative discussions behind the scenes,” said an Aberdeen spokesperson on Thursday. “Obviously the chairman released a statement last week and there should be another one coming by the end of this week.”
More than a few eyebrows were raised when it became known that Scotland’s wealthiest club – boasting a bank balance of around £30 million – had elected to access the government’s job retention scheme, and furlough many non-playing staff. They did so following an admission by manager Neil Lennon that come “the end of April” the club could be moved to consider wage reductions for their playing squad.
Celtic claim they are as entitled as any other business to use the furlough scheme and issued a statement that read: “At this time Celtic will ensure each colleague receives 100% salary with all other conditions and benefits remaining unchanged. Other colleagues will continue to work to cover the club’s on-going operational requirements.”
Along with Livingston, the Lanarkshire club sit at the foot of the financial league in the top flight. With a turnover believed to be in the region of £3 million it was hardly to be unexpected that they would move to ensure their viability with no games. It is believed they are likely to furlough all of their employees, both players and non-playing staff, and cover any sums beyond the 80 per cent up to £2,500 a month paid by the government but a statement issued last night was circumspect about details. It read: “On the back of the current situation, the entire board of Hamilton Academical FC are working tirelessly together on all and any grant/bank schemes, including the furlough job protection introduced by HMRC. This will help ensure that full contractual obligations are met during the month ahead.”
Two weeks ago, the club announced 50 per cent wage cuts for all full-time employees, both football and administrative, but since then have taken advantage of Government initiatives and furloughed the majority of their non-playing staff, ensuring them 80 per cent of their salary under the job retention scheme. It is not clear what reduction will now be imposed on those who continue to work. Manager Daniel Stendel has waived most of his pay for the duration of the shutdown, while his assistant Jorg Sievers and captain Steven Naismith have accepted the 50 per cent cut and Clevid Dikamona opted to end his contract. But talks are ongoing with the remainder of the football staff. With deferrals ruled out by the club, representatives are still hopeful of agreeing less swingeing cuts.
Hibs are looking to finalise deals with the football staff that would see manager Jack Ross and the players agree to defer a percentage of their salary to help the club negotiate the current shutdown. Owner Ron Gordon has admitted they are feeling the pinch and, with the club making it clear it does not wish to cut wages, the postponement of payments is considered the fairest way of seeing everyone through the crisis. It is understood the club hierarchy, including chief executive Leeann Dempster, will take a financial hit but the expectation is that those affected by the deferrals will be reimbursed when football starts back. Hibs are also looking at placing the majority of non-football staff in furlough under the Government’s job retention scheme.
Director Cathy Jamieson confirmed this week that Kilmarnock have paid all the staff at the club their full wages for March. The Rugby Park board are assessing their options going forward, including utilising the government’s job retention scheme, however they stress that they will not make “hasty” decisions as they look to ensure the club’s sustainability throughout the suspension of fixtures. Kilmarnock’s cause was aided shortly after the shutdown by supporters’ group The Killie Trust who brought forward a scheduled payment of £40,000 of their “Trust in Killie” subscription funds to the club and topped it up with a further donation of £10,000.
Livingston have told all members of staff – playing and non-football – that their wages will continue to be paid in full for the foreseeable future. A record profit of £367,530 for the year ending June 2019 – an increase of £320,000 on the previous 12 months – has afforded them some leeway however, in a statement from chairman Robert Wilson, they made it clear that it would be “financial suicide to entertain the idea that this is sustainable indefinitely”. To help alleviate some of the financial pressure, they have made moves to furlough some staff so that they can join the Government’s job retention scheme. That will cover 80 per cent of wages, with the club currently committed to making up the final 20 per cent, however the situation will be reviewed and could alter, depending on how long the shutdown lasts.
The Fir Park club have made no pronouncements on how they will meet staff costs across the – potentially – five-month lockdown necessitated by the coronavirus emergency. The fan-owned club, which last week passed the 3,000-mark for membership of the Well Society, were said to be in “relatively good shape” to deal with the crisis by chief executive Alan Burrows, when he spoke on the issue a fortnight ago, even as he admitted the situation could become “very difficult, very quickly”. “We’ve managed finances well over the last couple of years,” he said. “In reality for us though, whilst we see ourselves in relatively good shape to get through it, it only takes one or two things to fall for us, for things to get very difficult very quickly. That notwithstanding, I’m confident in the supporter base, the Well Society, and extremely confident in the guys that run the club to help us get through this.”
Rangers have yet to formally outline their approach to the financial impact of Covid-19 but Ibrox sources have indicated the situation is being closely monitored and the furloughing of staff cannot be ruled out. Season ticket sales for the 2021-22 campaign are set to be launched next week, the club maintaining the traditional timing of their renewal programme. Last year, they enjoyed an all-time record uptake of 46,000 season ticket holders, with a waiting list of 14,000, but it remains to be seen how sales are affected by the ongoing uncertainty over when next season will start. A club statement last week, confirming the boardroom changes which saw Dave King step down as chairman, insisted plans for fresh investment in the club are “well advanced”.
Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor was quick to make a vow to honour the contracts of all players shortly after the shutdown was announced. The first-team squad received an email assuring them there would be no cut to their salaries. The club have yet to make an announcement about what the shutdown means for the rest of the club’s staff and whether the likelihood of a longer shutdown has altered the thinking regarding players.
The Perth club have been conspicuous by their recent silence. “We have been monitoring the situation over the last few days and discussions are ongoing,” a spokesperson for the McDiarmid Park club said on Thursday night. “All staff will be paid in full to the end of April, while those who are able to are all currently working from home. Discussions will continue to take place at boardroom level with a statement expected in the next couple of days.” St Johnstone chairman Steve Brown went public about the club’s finances a month before the coronavirus crisis. He said the club had “over-egged” their spending on players and revealed the club were unable to sustain a top-six wage bill.
The Paisley club are expected to provide their latest update to supporters on Friday after holding a board meeting on Thursday night. Last week, they had outlined their desire to find a way to continue to pay all players and staff throughout the crisis. A decision on when season tickets for 2020-21 will go on sale was delayed as chairman Gordon Scott and his fellow directors waited to see if this week would bring any greater clarity over how the current SPFL campaign will be concluded. Jim Goodwin’s side were just two points clear of the relegation play-off position when the SPFL was suspended four weeks ago.