The true impact of Portsmouth putting players and staff on furlough leave

The word furlough and the very idea of being placed on a job retention scheme can be both dramatic and worrying.

Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 5:54 pm

Many Pompey staff, like people all over the country were finding out that was the case yesterday afternoon, as they were informed of their employers intentions to do just that.

Am I losing my job? Can I pay my bills? Will I have a role to come back to if this chaos ever comes to a close?

These are all perfectly legitimate concerns in the unprecedented and uncertain times we now reside in.

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Just like when you hear your football club are to access government funds to pay a portion of the wages of the men you watch each weekend in fact.

The connotations of doing so currently seem to be entrenched with worries of financial struggle - and in many cases those fears are well founded.

Just not in Pompey’s.

At a time when a suspension to the English game was the catalyst for two Championship clubs to swiftly ask their players to defer their wages, we’re right to be concerned over the impact of the financial black hole clubs are trying to fill.

Fratton Park. Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

But perhaps moreso it’s the unsustainable nature of their businesses which leads them to rapidly arrive at that juncture we should be looking at.

Birmingham and Leeds are the two clubs to call for a player wage deferral so far. There will be others.

Don’t let such alarming manoeuvres be mentioned in the same breath as last night’s developments from PO4, however.

Like any prudent business up and down the land, Pompey have spent recent days looking at the options at their disposal to lessen the impact of losses in revenue in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.

With vast numbers of staff falling into the category of being at home with no role to fulfil with their employers in hibernation mode, furlough was undoubtedly a relevant option.

But there was a promise made to those people when the potential effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were first realised - one which was delivered before any notion of financial intervention from the government was mooted: you will be paid your money.

The News understands that message was once again underlined to staff yesterday, no matter how long the effects of the global pandemic is felt.

While the scheme allows staff to claim 80 per cent of their wages to a maximum of £2,500 per month, Pompey will top up the rest of the money so their people aren’t a penny out of pocket.

You would think those businesses who are capable would be quick to follow suit.

Yet, a few hours before Mark Catlin detailed the Blues’ plans, Premier League Spurs announced they were putting 550 non-playing staff into the scheme - without making the same contribution.

This is the same Spurs whose chairman Daniel Levy received £7m in wages and bonuses last year. The same Spurs who can pay their players an average £76,000 a week. The same Spurs whose owner is worth £4.3bn.

We await the details of Newcastle’s non-playing staff being furloughed on Monday, the first Premier League club to do so. Millwall, Fleetwood, MK Dons, Bolton and the swathe of other clubs who will now tread the same path over the next few days. In Scotland, Hearts' players have taken a 50 per cent deferral.

Will those people receive their full salary and the same assurances those staff at Fratton have been given? Are their paymasters in a position to give those guarantees?

There’s a set of sustainable accounts barely registered at Companies House which go a long way to explaining why Pompey can deliver the kind of pledge we suspect many others are either unable or unwilling to follow.