Coronavirus: MPs’ anger as Tottenham ask for taxpayers’ cash before cutting stars’ wages

Premier League football clubs have been told to cut their players’ salaries before seeking taxpayers’ cash to pay non-playing staff during the coronavirus crisis.

Tottenham Hotspur prompted anger on Tuesday when they announced they would be applying for a government scheme in order to use public funds to pay 80% of the wages of off-pitch employees.

The government’s job retention scheme pays employees unable to work due to the COVID-19 outbreak 80% of their monthly salary up to a maximum of £2,500.

The Premier League season is currently suspended as the government urges people to stay at home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said he would “reduce the remuneration of all 550 non-playing directors and employees for April and May by 20% utilising, where appropriate, the government’s furlough scheme”.

The action was announced on the same day it was revealed Mr Levy earned a £3m bonus last year, as part of his £7m earnings, for delivering the club’s new stadium.

The Tottenham squad includes players such as England captain Harry Kane, who is estimated to earn up to £200,000 per week, and France captain Hugo Lloris, who is estimated to earn more than £100,000 per week.

Bahamas-based businessman Joe Lewis, thought to be worth more than £4bn, holds a controlling stake in Tottenham.

Fellow Premier League clubs Newcastle and Norwich have also chosen to use the government’s job retention scheme for their non-playing staff.

On Tuesday, Mr Levy expressed his hope that talks between the Premier League and players’ and managers’ unions would result in “players and coaches doing their bit for the football eco system”.

But senior politicians have told clubs they should have first sought a deal with their on-pitch stars before cutting the salaries of their non-playing staff and seeking government help.

Conservative MP Julian Knight, chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “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.”

He also accused English football of operating in a “moral vacuum”.

Fellow Conservative MP Steve Brine, another member of the committee and a Tottenham fan, called on clubs and players to “show moral responsibility” through the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Wealthy football clubs MUST NOT be allowed to take public funds to furlough staff while still paying players big bucks,” he said.

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