Over the last few years, Liverpool have developed a reputation as one of the best sporting institutions in the world to work for, with, or alongside.
‘It’s like a family’ is the line you so often hear, whether it be from the groundskeepers and the catering staff on the periphery or the players and coaches at the centre of it all.
They’re the last club you would expect to defer the payment of staff wages to the government in a time of national crisis.
That’s what they ?announced they would do on Saturday, however, and that announcement has been met with a rare show of unity in fans from all parts of the country, and all walks of life.
Every single one of them was disgusted.
This was a serious, reckless, grave error of judgement, and one that will likely have consequences far greater than £2.25m they are projected to save (per ?Goal).
Even when you consider that they will make up the 20% of salary not covered by the government’s job retention scheme, even when you consider they will pay anything over and above the £2,500 cap imposed by Westminster, and even when you consider they claim to be ‘fully committed’ to ensuring no member of staff is out of pocket; this could not have been handled more poorly.
A business decision was made to save some money in a time when their revenue streams will be hit hard. But this is a corporation worth billions, owned by a billionaire, doing business on a daily basis that utterly dwarfs the sums in discussion here.
In context, they’ve saved some pocket change, but what they failed to consider is the message it sends to staff and the wider footballing community.
In times like this, when people are down, fearing the worst, and in many cases scared for their lives, the club’s words aren’t enough. In their actions, they should be telling their staff clearly and coherently: ‘we’ll take care of you.’
Instead, they’ve put their foot in it and said ‘we’ve got money to make, someone else can do it instead.’
With one financially-motivated decision, the corporate masterminds, who might as well be working on another planet, have shown they could not be further removed from the football operation they so graciously profit from.
To Jurgen Klopp, Vicky Jepson, Michael Edwards and everyone involved with Liverpool FC as a football club right down to ground level, the Bill Shankly mantra of compassion before anything else is alive and well.
That was apparent in Klopp’s ?heartfelt message to supporters last week. It was apparent when the news emerged that Jordan Henderson proactively ?organised a movement among Premier League captains to donate a percentage of wages to the NHS – the priceless health service whose value can know no bounds at the best of times, let alone now.
Sadio Mané donated a substantial sum to help fight coronavirus in his native Senegal, while Andy Robertson has used his time off to throw himself into helping food banks keep up with the tragically increasing demand.
The players and staff are doing all they can to help each other out and lift society out of the doldrums imposed on it by a deadly and unpredictable virus. The board, meanwhile, have shirked responsibility to save a few extra quid at the expense of the taxpayer.
At a football club, there’s a holy trinity: the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques. – Bill Shankly
It’s no surprise that within a day of the decision, reports were already emerging of discontent among the senior players.
Liverpool Football Club Limited is a corporation which finances ?Liverpool FC, the football team. But now, more than ever, it’s important to remember that it is no more than that.
The difference is simple. Those who run the club at boardroom level have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the club is about. They often make the right call, but at the heart of it is always financial gain. That’s the only explanation as to why they were able to overlook the startling human implications of publicly invoking a legal loophole to put its own staff on the government payroll instead of their own.
To Liverpool FC, the team and the community, who have a clear understanding of the ethos that keeps the fans, staff and players together as one, that is unfathomable.
The situation is a sad reminder that even the seemingly untouchable Liverpool, who have been the gold standard for decision-making at all levels, are not immune to the cutthroat, cash-first nature of modern football.
But even more crucially, it underlines the separation between the company in the football club.
Millionaire corporations will always be millionaire corporations however you dress them up, but now more than ever, Liverpool – club, players, fans and staff – are something to be proud of.