Furlough and the footballer

By Mya Bollan

Football clubs faced backlash when announcing plans to furlough their employees. But there is an important distinction between clubs north and south of the league tables and the border.

Criticism, from conversations between fans to public ranting from well known sports presenters is hugely deserved and accepted. Clubs who are forking out hundreds of millions in the transfer market being able to take advantage of the tax payers money surely does not sit right with anyone.

If a football club goes to the government for a hand out… no club should be allowed to do transfers going forward

Georgies Bingham on talksport(6tH APRIL 2020)

However, logic must come into play here. Specifically when looking at clubs north of the border. At any time – pandemic or not- Scottish clubs rely on week to week income and are forced to tighten their belt throughout the season. Especially those in the lower league who literally depend on gate money week on week to pay the bills.

Clubs up and down Scotland still do not know when they will be back on the pitch. Lower league clubs must prove that they are able to test players and staff as well as follow other health measures before moving forward. In a nutshell, uncertainty definitely remains.

Pressures on clubs who are genuinely struggling with no end date to this loss of income should not be met with criticisms based on claiming government help. The scheme was set up to help businesses keep staff through the troubled time. But what does that mean for those out of contract? Many clubs have extended contracts to help out staff but there have also been many players out of contract and unable to find another club – and therefore another income- during this time.

Dunfermline Athletic released 17 players who were out of contract to “protect future of club”

reported by BBC Sport on 22 May 2020
Dunfermline Stadium

The Fife club let go all players who were out of contract including a number of first team regulars. The club prepared for possible financial trouble by decreasing the number of employees on the payroll. If the furlough scheme used by clubs like Dunfermline to protect players and contracts it may have been a completely different story. The club have went to make 2 new signings – ex Dundee United defender Paul Watson and Steven Whittaker who signed from Hibs. Just over a month after releasing a huge number of players it surely is questionable whether the furlough scheme – and more importantly the way it has been utilised by lower league Scottish clubs- is somewhat questionable.

Courtesy of Dunfermline FC’s official twitter

Dunfermline are not the only club who have released vast numbers of players who were only contracted until the end of the 2019/20 season. But the gap between the bizarre ending of this season and the beginning of next has left countless footballers with no club. Teams are lowering their budgets considerably for next season- whenever that may be- which means that a lot of players who like the rest of us have bills to pay and families to look after may not be getting a wage at the moment on in the coming months. Just because a person makes their living from kicking a ball about does not mean they are getting the big bucks like those at big clubs.

The gist here really is the appreciate the huge difference between slaughtering clubs like Liverpool whose attempt to furlough staff sparked mass reaction and the little, local run clubs up here. More support should have been made available. Not only to football clubs but other sporting clubs or businesses running on season to season or year to year contracts that have ultimately seen people go without during this time.

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