The Coronavirus pandemic is causing chaos to all economic sectors all around the world. Football finances have not escaped the general malaise, and Portugal’s top-flight clubs are set to take measures to cut footballers’ salaries as soon as April.

Joaquim Evangelista is the head of the Portuguese professional footballers’ union. While standing up for the rights of his members, he is realistic when it comes to what is likely to happen in the immediate future. “If cutting wages saves Portuguese football, we’re open to it,” he said, in an interview published in today’s edition of the Diário de Notícias

Several clubs around Europe have already announced their players will be paid reduced salaries, and Portugal is set to follow suit. Clubs are in mutual discussions about how to proceed, and are waiting for a government decision regarding employment contracts. An nationwide support package is expected to be announced imminently as businesses across the board have come to a sudden standstill.

Evangelista says he is monitoring what is happening in other countries closely and revealed a broad working group has been set up in Portugal to define a national strategy to tackle the problem of how to keep football clubs afloat, involving the Portuguese Football Federation, the Liga, the players’ union, coaches and referees.

But the head of the union warned that clubs cannot take advantage of the situation to stop paying their players unilaterally. Desportivo das Aves had been in big financial trouble even before the stoppage, with their players threatening strike action after not being paid at all in 2020.

“The justification Desportivo das Aves gave, saying salaries could not be paid because of Covid-19 is a criminal act,” said Evangelista. “It is not acceptable. It is simply taking advantage of the emergency situation for its own benefit. The club could and should comply with its obligations.”

Nevertheless, Evangelista is aware that sacrifices will have to be made by the members of the union he represents, just like in all other sectors of society. “The union has created a crisis office with our lawyers so that we can analyse the circumstances as best as possible. If cutting wages saves Portuguese football, we’re open to it, but we won’t accept abusive measures.”

2019/20 season at risk

Joaquim Evangelista, head of the Portuguese professional footballers' union

As for when football can resume in Portugal, Evangelista admits there is a chance the current season will not be completed. “I was more optimistic; now I’m more pessimistic. I initially believed that in May we could be competing again, but after listening to the health experts I’m more worried and I think this season is in risk.

“I hope football is back as soon as possible. Football is fundamental for the mental health of the Portuguese people. It’s a fabulous escape and effective therapy.

“We all want to start up again, and return to normality as soon as possible, but this will only happen when the government and the health authorities give the green light. We don’t want to create expectations about the resumption then let people down.”

by Tom Kundert

 

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