Liverpool 'believe furlough plans were LEAKED by Premier League rival'

Liverpool ‘believe their plans to furlough staff were LEAKED by a Premier League rival’… with American owners ‘shocked’ by the fierce backlash before urging a U-turn

  • Liverpool believe their plans to furlough staff were leaked by a top-flight side 
  • The club announced on Saturday they were furloughing most non-playing staff
  • But after criticism from fans and former players they reversed that decision 
  • Chief executive Peter Moore admitted on Tuesday that they were in the wrong  

Liverpool believe that details regarding their plans to place their staff on the government’s furlough scheme were leaked by a Premier League rival, according to The Athletic.

The club announced earlier on Tuesday that they had reversed their decision to accept government funding after announcing on Saturday that they intended to take advantage of the Coronavirus Job retention scheme introduced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with more than half of their non-playing staff being furloughed.

It was a decision that attracted ferocious criticism from Piers Morgan and former players such as Jamie Carragher, before the reversal was announced by Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore, who admitted that they ‘came to the wrong conclusion.’

Liverpool believe their plans to furlough some staff were leaked by a Premier League club

However, a report in The Athletic claims that the Anfield hierarchy believe that details were leaked by another club in the top flight.

Liverpool had held what they believed to be confidential discussions involving Premier League sides about how they intended to handle the effects of the pandemic. 

But after the news broke on Saturday, the report states that principal owner John W Henry, chairman Tom Werner and FSG president Mike Gordon were ‘shocked’ by the deluge of criticism that came their way and were unhappy with what they regarded as unfair jibes of greed. 

It was then decided during a series of conference calls on Monday that back-tracking was the best solution to limit the damage caused by the fallout to their initial decision. 

Owner John W Henry was said to be ‘shocked’ by the criticism after the initial announcement

Liverpool will therefore no longer seek taxpayers’ money to cover 80 per cent of the wages of staff – who would have been claiming about £500,000 per month – who are currently unable to work with no matches. 

In an open letter to supporters on the club’s official website announcing their reversal of the decision, Moore wrote: ‘Allowing for perspective in these unprecedented and harrowing times, it is important to address an issue we, as an organisation, have been involved in since the weekend.

‘We have consulted with a range of key stakeholders as part of a process aimed at achieving the best possible outcome for all concerned.

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S FURLOUGH SCHEME? 

When an employee is placed on furlough they are temporarily put on a leave of absence and not paid, although they remain on the payroll, meaning that they do not lose their job.

This could be because there is no work for these employees, or that the company is not able to afford to pay them, because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

In the United Kingdom, the Government is offering to pay 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s wages, up to £2,500 per month, until they are able to resume their job full time. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will last for at least three months from March 1.

‘A range of possible scenarios were considered, including but not restricted to: applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which pays 80 per cent of salary and guaranteeing the 20 per cent payment; applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme with a guarantee to reimburse monies received at a later date and, thirdly, finding an alternative means to cover our furlough costs.

‘It is as a direct result of this extensive consultation – and our own internal deliberations at various levels throughout the Club – that we have opted to find alternative means despite our eligibility to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

‘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.’

This is not the first time FSG – whose key figures are principal owner John W Henry, Chairman Tom Werner and President Mike Gordon – have reversed a controversial decision. In February 2016, they abandoned plans to introduce tickets for £77 following a mass walkout at Anfield.

FSG are conscious of the way they are publicly perceived and were left in no uncertain terms that accepting state intervention was not a good look for a company whose turnover was £533million in the last financial year. The Champions League winners made a profit of £42million.

Some of those staff who were initially furloughed will now return to their positions, but Moore warned however that Liverpool will continue to suffer the longer the club goes without playing football.

Moore said: ‘In the spirit of transparency, we must be clear – despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis – our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain. And like almost every sector of society, there is great uncertainty and concern over our present and future.

Liverpool then performed a dramatic U-turn on their decision to accept government funding

‘Like any responsible employer concerned for its workers in the current situation, the Club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic. These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between.

‘It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses. Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have.

‘We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage.’

Despite reversing their decision, Good Morning Britain presenter Morgan said he believes FSG and Liverpool have done their reputation irreparable damage.

‘Liverpool Football club built up such a good reputation in recent years under Jurgen Klopp, and winning the Champions League, this dynamic wonderful team, everyone was proud, everyone loved what Liverpool were standing for,’ he said on Good Morning Britain.

But chief executive Peter Moore said on Tuesday that they had come to the wrong conclusion

‘All gone, all gone, because their billionaire owners in America decided that this was the time in a year when they made £45m profit that they were going to furlough their staff at Liverpool Football Club.

‘They were going to get the British taxpayer to pay 80 per cent of the salaries of Liverpool staff. This is when they’re paying players millions a year, £5m-10m a year for some of those players, this is when they’re making tens of millions of pounds in gate receipts, in fees for winning the Champions League. 

‘What an astonishingly stupid decision from Liverpool Football Club. We’ve seen the same thing happening at Newcastle under Mike Ashley, no surprise, the man who tried to fleece all his customers.’

Former Liverpool defender Carragher however admitted that he was ‘delighted’ that the club changed their minds, admitting he was ’embarrassed’ with Saturday’s announcement.

Piers Morgan says Liverpool have ruined their reputation after furloughing non-playing staff

Carragher told Sky Sports: ‘My hope was that there was enough time to reverse this decision. I was angry.

‘At this moment Liverpool are top of the league, world champions, they tick so many boxes. People look at them as some sort of model.

‘To get something so badly wrong, I couldn’t believe it. I was embarrassed as a Liverpool fan.

‘Tottenham and Newcastle have already done it, I expected it, and the football world expected it from Daniel Levy and Mike Ashley. But not from Liverpool, who built themselves up under their owners as “this means more”. I’m delighted they’ve changed their mind.’

The initial decision undid all the good work Jurgen Klopp’s side have produced this season

PETER MOORE’S FULL LETTER 

Dear Liverpool supporters,

First and foremost on behalf of our ownership, Fenway Sports Group, we would like to emphasise the thoughts and concerns of everyone are with those suffering from the dreadful COVID-19 pandemic and the families of those affected.

We would also recognise and pay tribute to the heroism of the incredible health service and key workers locally, nationally and internationally. All other worries should be placed in that context first.

Allowing for perspective in these unprecedented and harrowing times, it is important to address an issue we, as an organisation, have been involved in since the weekend.

We have consulted with a range of key stakeholders as part of a process aimed at achieving the best possible outcome for all concerned. A range of possible scenarios were considered, including but not restricted to: applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which pays 80% of salary and guaranteeing the 20% payment; applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme with a guarantee to reimburse monies received at a later date and, thirdly, finding an alternative means to cover our furlough costs.

It is as a direct result of this extensive consultation and our own internal deliberations at various levels throughout the Club that we have opted to find alternative means despite our eligibility to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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.

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. 

We would like to acknowledge the great army of staff and casual workers who work tirelessly to ensure Liverpool is a club that operates to the highest of standards.

But in the spirit of transparency we must also be clear, despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain. And like almost every sector of society, there is great uncertainty and concern over our present and future.

Like any responsible employer concerned for its workers in the current situation, the Club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic. These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between.

It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses. Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have.

We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage. We thank the many amazing people in our club, at all levels, who are committed to helping us do just that, despite the complexity and unpredictability in the world and our industry.

We would also like to take the opportunity to thank those who have engaged with us in a productive fashion, none more so than our supporters, their representatives, particularly Spirit of Shankly, the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, local MPs Dan Carden and Ian Byrne and many other individuals who we have had much valued dialogue with.

Stay Safe.

Peter Moore

Chief Executive Officer

 

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