LONDON (Reuters) - The association representing England's professional footballers denied on Wednesday that it has blocked wage deferrals for players during the coronavirus stoppage but said that clubs should pay all staff if they could afford it.
Professional football in England has been suspended until April 30, at the earliest, due to the pandemic with some top flight clubs putting non-playing staff on leave.
Player wages, with some paid many times more per week than the average Briton takes home in a year, have become a hot topic as club staff are furloughed under a government job retention scheme.
"Contrary to some press reports the PFA has never stated that it will block all wage deferrals," said the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) in a statement. Instead, it had sought "a structured and unified approach to ensure a fair response across the leagues."
It said that a meeting with the Premier League and the English Football League -- consisting of the lower divisions -- in March agreed to protect players' salaries for that month and talks about possible cuts in April were ongoing.
"We are aware of the public sentiment that the players should pay non-playing staff's salaries. However, our current position is that – as businesses - if clubs can afford to pay their players and staff, they should," it said.
It said that players did not want to see club staff furloughed unfairly and that "any use of the government's support schemes without genuine financial need is detrimental to the wider society."
"In instances where clubs have the resources to pay all staff, the benefit of players paying non-playing staff salaries will only serve the business of the club’s shareholders," it added.
The PFA said it accepted that players would have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the coronavirus outbreak "in order to secure the long-term future of their own club and indeed the wider game."
It said it had dealt with a large number of cases in the third and fourth tiers where players had been pressured into furloughs, wage deferrals and salary cuts which in some cases would have had a legal standing beyond the resumption of football.
In the third and fourth tiers, it said that a significant number of players were employed on 12-month contracts with salaries closer to the national average.
"These are often people with young families, for whom their immediate financial position is uncertain," it said.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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