By Tony Attwood
So football, like all other industries, waits. Everything has changed.
The news from the BBC this lunchtime says we are likely to be in lockdown not for a few weeks or couple of months, but for a year. The problem being that if we do find an antidote to the virus, it is just as likely to mutate and come back for another round.
Faced with the suspension of football, we sit and wait. There is talk of starting up again soon, but really? As each day passes the situation seems to be worse, not closer to a resolution.
So naturally, the clubs, deprived of income, start to seek solutions, especially with companies in the general economy saying that they will be going bust in a matter of weeks, not months without mega support.
Thus deprived of their usual resources like TV money, the clubs seek solutions, even if it means tinkering to try to afloat. Because as many have predicted and more are saying every day, the risk of bankruptcy lies in wait.
In Switzerland clubs are looking at the concept of “technical unemployment.” The guaranteed monthly salary which is paid out to employees whose employer says it can’t go on paying the staff, is 12,350 francs, which is much more than what most of the inhabitants of this country earn. Less than the players get of course, but the clubs don’t have the money to keep paying top salaries without any income. So for the top players this is a significant reduction.
But of course not all players are happy with major pay cuts and thus, at FC Sion, the measure was refused by several star players whose monthly salary is probably around 30,000 francs if not more.
The response of club owner Christian Constantin was then interesting.
Constantin is a colourful fellow. He bought the club, when it was nearly bankrupt and had been relegated from the Swiss Super League.
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His activities since have resulted in a transfer ban from Fifa, expulsion from the Europa League in 2011/12 (for signing players during an embargo), and on the upside, winning the Swiss Cup four times.
But then in 2017 he was given a 14-month ban from football for striking former Switzerland coach Rolf Fringer.
So not an easy man to deal with, and when the players said they didn’t want their salaries capped he kicked them out, including a certain Alex Song.
The player’s case was not helped by the fact that Swiss internationals Sommer, Elvedi, Zakaria and Embolo, had already announced they were giving up their salaries for a month to help out their club.
The public reaction against the players has been strong, as one might expect, and it is being speculated in Europe that the damage to the players’ image rights is going to be far greater than their loss of salary. As one commentator said, “Where we could expect responsible human behaviour, we were treated to selfish footballers, out of touch with reality. To be honest, it was disgusting.”
Although to be fair the players of the club is not coming out smelling of roses. The suspicion in the media is that through demanding an immediate response from the players, the owner of Sion expected them not to think things through, and instead to go for the “I know my rights,” and “He can’t do this to me” line of protest.
In effect the owner played his cards right and got rid of his most expensive players at a time when they are not playing, and so saved a huge amount of his payroll, when there is no money coming in. It is also suggested that knowing that the agents of the players were not Swiss, the owner gambled that the agents would not be au fait with current feeling in the country, and the likely reaction of fans.
Of course England is not Switzerland, although many Championship clubs are akin to the top Swiss clubs. The notion, still being promoted in all the blogs and most newspaper columns is that it will all soon be over and we’ll be returning to normality soon, and look here are seven or eight players Arsenal will soon be signing. I am really not sure that is right.