London mayor Sadiq Khan has called on Premier League footballers to take pay-cuts as soon as possible as they have “the greatest shoulders to carry the greatest burden”, following news that Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City have all placed staff on furlough.

Clubs have faced a fierce backlash over plans to utilise the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will see 80 per cent of wages covered in order to prevent forced redundancies across all businesses.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy announced on Tuesday that they were introducing a 20 per cent pay cut for all 550 staff members and placing them on furlough “where appropriate”, but that the move did not apply to the playing squad or management staff, prompting widespread criticism given that Spurs had filed accounts on the same day that revealed Levy himself was paid £7m for the 2018/19 season which included a £3m deferred bonus payment from the opening of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

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The move to cover employee wages was brought in by chancellor Rishi Sunak last week as the United Kingdom went into lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19, but within days a number of football clubs have been forced to turn to the scheme in order to pay staff while all football is suspended – with a blanket ban currently in place until at least the start of May.

That is affecting those staff members who work in areas such as administration, media, catering and hospitality, while matchday workers are also being heavily impacted due to the absence of games, yet Premier League players continue to earn lucrative salaries without any reduction. 

“My view as always is that those who are the least well-off should get the most help,” Khan told BBC Five Live on Wednesday. 

“Those with the greatest shoulders should carry the greatest burden, and highly-paid football players are people who can carry the greatest burden. They should be the first ones, with the greatest respect, who should sacrifice their salary rather than the person selling the programme or the person who does catering or the person who probably doesn’t get anywhere near the salary that some of the Premier League footballers get. 

“It should be those with the broadest shoulders who go first because they can carry the greatest burden and have probably got savings, rather than those who work in catering or hospitality who have probably got no savings and live week by week and who probably won’t get (government) benefits for five weeks.”

Khan’s criticisms were echoed by Julian Knight, chair of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who admitted the sight of millionaire footballers claiming the entirety of their wage packet while others suffer reductions is one that doesn’t sit right.

“It sticks in the throat,” said Knight.

“This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its centre.”

He added on Twitter: “Furloughing staff is essential for smaller clubs but the big boys of the premier league should be looking to come to a fair arrangement with their stars before they go cap in hand to the taxpayer.”

Talks are ongoing between the Premier League, English Football League, Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers’ Association over a universal reduction to wages, although Leeds United have already taken measures into their own hands after players, coaches and senior management all deferred their wages to protect the jobs of those less well-off at the club. Birmingham City have asked all players who earn more than £6,000 a week to take a 50 per cent pay cut over the next four months, while further afield Barcelona players have agreed to a 70 per cent salary reduction.

Khan did move to praise the London clubs who have responded to his plea for help earlier this week, with the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Crystal Palace all pitching in to help by offering their facilities and medical services to the NHS.

“They have stepped up, I’ve got to be honest with you,” Khan added. “They’ve stepped up in relation to the stadium facilities are accessible and available to the NHS Trust, accommodation to NHS staff and others, they’re cars are being used by NHS staff and the paramedics. 

“So that’s why I asked our football clubs and I’ve got to be honest they’ve stepped up. It’s really important that anybody across the country who thinks they’ve got something to offer, don’t wait to be asked. Contact your local NHS Trust or contact your regional mayor or council and ask how you can help.”

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