Premier League leaders Liverpool have reversed their decision to furlough some of their non-playing staff and club CEO Peter Moore apologised to fans on Monday after the decision drew sharp criticism from the British government and supporters.
The club said over the weekend they had furloughed some of their non-playing staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were holding talks about the prospect of salary deductions for players and senior staff.
The decision was made after the Premier League was suspended last month and, with no clear date for when it can resume, the club said they intended to apply to the British government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to reclaim a percentage of the wages.
"We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that," Moore said in a statement.
"Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period.
"We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme."
Premier League players and managers have been criticised for not taking pay cuts during the league's suspension while the clubs' staff, who earn a fraction of their wages, are furloughed.
The players' union, the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), has yet to agree to a cut and argued after a meeting with the Premier League on Saturday that reduced wages would lower tax revenue for the National Health Service.
Spurs fans urge club to reverse furlough decision
Tottenham Hotspur's fans are urging the club to follow Liverpool's move and reverse its decision to make use of a government scheme to pay furloughed staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Spurs imposed a 20% pay cut on 550 non-playing staff in April and May to protect jobs, and chairman Daniel Levy said on March 31 that the club planned to use the government's furlough scheme where appropriate.
Liverpool reversed its decision to furlough some non-playing staff, and club CEO Peter Moore apologised to fans on Monday after facing sharp criticism from the government as well as supporters.
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust said the Premier League club's decision to use the government scheme, where employers can claim for 80% of furloughed staff's monthly wages up to 2,500 pounds ($3,000) per month - was harming its reputation.
"We have been saying consistently @SpursOfficial - pause and rethink," it said on Twitter. "We are now saying it clearly and in public - do not further damage the club's reputation, listen to your fans."
Levy said in his March 31 statement that the club would continue to review its position.
The north London club - the eighth-largest in the world by revenue according to a Deloitte survey - saw its revenue rise by 80 million pounds in 2019, when it posted a profit of 68.6 million pounds after tax.
Premier League players and managers have been criticised for not taking pay cuts during the league's suspension while many staff who earn a fraction of the players' wages are furloughed.
Professional football in England had been suspended until April 30. The Premier League said last week the season will only resume when the situation stabilises.
Portugal players union slams 'opportunist' furloughs
The Portuguese footballers' union (SJPF) has criticised the practice of furloughing players during the coronavirus stoppage as opportunist and urged clubs to find their own solutions to the crisis.
With Portuguese football at a standstill since March 12, Belenenses SAD became the first top flight club to announce furloughs when it said on Monday that it would "partially lay off" its staff for an undetermined period.
Joaquim Evangelista, the SJPF president, told the Diario de Noticias that he expected a group of second tier clubs to follow suit.
However, the SJPF said in a statement that such moves ignored a negotiations with the league and gave the wrong image to the public.
"The SJPF has been involved in a permanent dialogue with the league in the last few weeks, to find a compromise solution which safeguards the rights of the players and guarantees the activity's financial sustainability," it said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, some clubs, organised outside these negotiations, have unilaterally decided to go straight to furloughs."
In doing so, it said, the clubs "gave Portuguese society the message that, in times of crisis, they aren't capable of resolving the problems which affect them."
The government has agreed to help pay the wages of workers who are furloughed or put on reduced hours, and Belenenses said it would make use of the scheme.
"Public support for companies and workers because of the coronavirus pandemic is aimed at safeguarding jobs and the business fabric and is made to be used," it said. "The lay-off allows Belenenses SAD workers to benefit from this support."
However, the SJPF said this was "an opportunist attitude on the part of football clubs in placing themselves in this position" and that they should not be using government funds.
"Football has the capacity to respond to this problem, professional football can and must behave differently," it said.
"Fortunately, there are many clubs that in the same circumstances have adopted a different, shared and fair attitude. This is recognised by the players who offer their willingness to overcome this crisis."