While footballers get a kicking, McLaren deserve some praise

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Formula 1’s 10 teams face difficult and uncertain times following the decision to call off the first eight races of the 2020 championship due to the global pandemic.

While six of those races are still hoping to be rescheduled, more could still drop off the calendar. In the meantime teams have bills to pay but F1’s income from race hosting fees and television broadcast deals is in doubt, and therefore so is the cut teams receive. Yesterday F1’s rating by credit agency Moody’s was downgraded to ‘negative’.

Faced with this, on Wednesday McLaren became the first team to confirm it had furloughed some of its F1 staff. It has taken advantage of the opportunity to put team members on temporary leave at a reduced rate of pay – 80% of their salary up to £2,500 per month. However it has also ensured comparable cuts have applied to its senior executives and its drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

In a cynical age when any worthy deed problems hair-trigger accusations of ‘virtue signalling’, note that this information did not emerge in a press release from McLaren. RaceFans learned of the development and asked the team for details on Wednesday. Only later did they speak publicly of the decision.

“Due to the impact of Covid 19, the McLaren Group has adopted difficult temporary measures regarding its staff to hopefully protect jobs in the long term,” Sainz wrote on social media. “I fully understand these tough decisions and I have obviously decided to take a pay cut. We are all in this together.”

But the same attitude hasn’t been evident throughout other sports. In Britain, some of the most high-profile players are drawing fire for not doing the same.

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Top football teams in some countries have already made significant cuts. Barcelona players’ pay has been reduced by 70%, and the Juventus squad and senior staff are taking no pay for four months. Football faces much the same challenges as F1: no game, no megabucks television income.

McLaren Technology Centre exterior, aerial view
McLaren is unlikely to be the last team to furlough staff
But many clubs in the top-flight Premier League are yet to do the same. This prompted criticism from Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock, who yesterday told the footballers to “take a pay cut and play their part”.

Some of these clubs have already furloughed non-playing staff, as McLaren have, but not reduced their players’ wage bill. The sums involved are not insubstantial. England’s top 3,500 highest-paid footballers are estimated to earn £2.9bn a year.

“Given the sacrifices many people are making, the first thing PL footballers can do is make a contribution,” continued Hancock.

He has a point. But why so quick to criticise footballers and so slow to praise those doing the right thing, such as Norris and Sainz?

Perhaps if the government was less concerned with deflecting attention from its shambolic response to the pandemic it might be less desperate to use footballers as, well, political footballs. But it needs to point the public’s ire elsewhere, and singling out famous footballers is more useful to that end that praising McLaren’s less well-known drivers.

Nonetheless credit (and discredit) where it’s due. With Formula 1’s mandatory factory shutdown having been brought forwards and likely to be extended, it would be no surprise to see other teams consider similar steps to McLaren. Hopefully they show the same wisdom as their F1 rivals, instead of following the Premier League’s example.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 25 comments on “While footballers get a kicking, McLaren deserve some praise”

    1. And most likely will. Especially, Hanoi, Baku, and Shanghai.

    2. I reckon that in premier league’s case, mostly, the clubs haven’t been affected. Must be something like that.
      Sky and BT are paying the clubs and the other sponsors have possibly already paid too. ticket sales are a drop in the ocean for PL clubs. Perhaps the furloughed staff job is technically out of the PL and sponsor money, some technicality to do with paying the staff with the ticket sales.
      Life’s unfair.

      1. antony obrien
        3rd April 2020, 9:51

        No nothing like that at all. It’ll just be the contracts are more complex for the players with all sorts of clauses. Gate money is just one aspect, food & beer also represent sizeable revenue streams and with most clubs running at a loss already this is really hurting them. The most important aspect though is footballers are greedy and selfish and inhabit another world. Its pretty well known that when they goto bars/restaurants clubs they don’t expect to pay anything and generally have a minder who settles later.

        The silence from them has been deafening and embarrassing.

        1. Its pretty well known that when they goto bars/restaurants clubs they don’t expect to pay anything and generally have a minder who settles later.

          We call that a credit card ;)

    3. The most interesting thing to see, is what kind of sandcastles we have allowed to be built in the last decades. It seems like the whole world including massive companies live paycheck to paycheck.

      1. antony obrien
        3rd April 2020, 10:23

        I think that’s a really good point. Businesses have been running on cheap credit and servicing it from their income streams. When that dried up they literally go bust over night. Private equity take overs are built on this and they need to be legislated into oblivion.

      2. @SadF1Fan Yes, especially many of the big companies that are on the lower-profit-margin end of the market – who have been pressured into living paycheck to paycheck by shareholders. Sports and arts got hit first – and while they’re also likely to be among the first out of this part of the crisis (the post-COVID-recession is another matter) – so are the first to have to react, and the first to get praise (to the thoughtful) or criticism (to those with strange reactions) accordingly.

    4. If Lando and Carlos are ever short of cash they could always flog those Richard Mille watches on their wrists…I’ve not seen one advertised for anything less than double the national average wage in the UK. :)

      1. And theirs will be a lot more than that I’m sure and of course having not paid for them in the first place. Martin Brundle’s was something like £120K.

    5. McLaren, drivers and team led by Fred Flintstone Brown and by Seidl, are becoming more appealing by the day. I would not be surprised to see their fan base take off exponentially when we emerge from the crisis.
      They are likely to retain 4th in the wcc and may well give the third placed a run for their money. That’s Ferrari most probably.

      1. That’s just a wishful thinking. Although a McLaren ever since I’ve started watching Formula 1, I don’t expect the status quo to significantly change under the current circumstances. No team is going to improve and catch those which are higher in the pecking order, and I’m sure Ferrari would still be miles away in front of the midfield, not far behind Mercedes and on par with Red Bull.

          1. I meant to day “a McLaren fan” in my previous reaction, of course.

            Yeah, I’ve seen it. Cheers to Bernie for being so lively at such an old age. On the other hand, the kid might miss an active father who would teach him/her stuff.

    6. Jonny Herbert
      3rd April 2020, 12:11

      Pretty weak referencing the Daily Mail

      1. Yes, tired of the negative response to what is truly an unprecedented situation where the whole population of the planet is looking for the same stuff. Ambulance chasing journalism.

    7. Amazing how top premier league clubs still aren’t having players taking pay cuts – I think Leeds announced their players and major staff taking paycuts middle of last week! And I was expecting the top clubs to follow quickly.

      1. Why should premier league footballers take a paycut? Why exactly are they being singled out? Daniel levy (spurs chief executive) was paid £7 million last year how come he doesn’t have to take a pay cut? Easyjet paid its founder a £60 million dividend and are looking for a government bailout. How about some of the big CEOs get some criticism? Footballers are an easy target and it’s no surprise to see them getting stick. Politicians will always find away to criticise footballers.

        1. With the huge volatility in stock markets, bond markets, oil price et al I would think there are huge sums of money being made at present yet no mention of those making the huge sums being asked to put some of their gains toward the coronavirus effort. Sport as ever is a soft target, usually reasonably politics free until politicians seek to use it for their own ends.

        2. Adam, it is probably because the actions of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has turned people against them, particularly at a time when at least five clubs are known to be using the government backed scheme to furlough staff.

          Recently, they have put out a statement claiming that it would be “detrimental to the NHS” to cut player wages on the basis that the cut in wages would cut tax receipts to the UK government – an argument that has not gone down well, particularly because of the tax avoidance tactics that quite a few players have used in the past. There is also an indication that some players were prepared to take a voluntary pay cut, but were then instructed by the PFA not to enter into any such discussions.

          In the case of Levy, he certainly has been criticised for taking that bonus payment – particularly since his club is one of those using the government system to furlough staff – but, on the other hand, he has also announced that he will take a 20% pay cut this year.

          1. @anon, that is really useful context. I had no idea the union was being intransigent. That is probably the defence the club will used if anyone threatens a lawsuit.

      2. Um clubs can’t just cut their players staff pay without consent of the players. They signed a contract with penalty clauses costing the club even more if they don’t pay their wages.

        The PFA, the union representing footballers (not just the EPL but the lower leagues as well) also have been resistant to such calls.

        1. @yaru They’re exactly as entitled as any other profession. If a company has furloughed some of its staff, and cannot show cause to treat other staff differently (e.g. because some of the staff are working from home and others cannot due to work-from-home arrangements not being available for them), the furloughed staff and HMRC are both entitled to take the company to court afterwards.

    8. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
      3rd April 2020, 16:15

      Maybe we should focus less on telling other people what they should do. I’m sure the players, the union and the clubs are talking.

    9. I suspect there’s an element of ‘performance’ in most F1 contracts, so by not racing those drivers will automatically be taking a pay cut, but whether it is enough of a cut for the good of the team is another matter. I guess there’s also the matter of pay-drivers, in that if they aren’t racing then presumably they aren’t paying the team either.

    10. Politicians have attacked the easy targets, sports stars, for allegedly not reducing their income during the pandemic. There’s been no mention of anyone on the Sunday Times Rich List being told to cut their bonuses, or in the case of Richard Branson, pay some tax. At a guess, it might have something to do with political donations.

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