The dispute between the Professional Footballers' Association and the Premier League over the distribution of television money intensified today, with the head of the PFA Gordon Taylor accusing football's ruling powers of being "archaic, pathetic and insulting".
The PFA yesterday declined a meeting with the Premiership chief executive, Richard Scudamore, who despite the publicity surrounding the dispute, has so far refused to budge on the original TV offer.
One of the reasons for the growing animosity is that Taylor believes the Premier League have attempted to turn the spotlight onto his personal salary and the PFA's finances in order to gain public support. The PFA's chief executive's salary has been quoted as £450,000 a year, but he insists the figure is much lower and that it is irrelevant to the current dispute.
Taylor also insisted the PFA would not be intimidated by threats to dock the pay of footballers who vote for strike action. "My salary seems to go up every time there's a dispute. It's as though you are supposed to be penniless, not have any assets and to be standing at the door of your employers with a begging bowl. It's archaic and insulting," Taylor said.
"My salary is around £300,000 plus benefits such as a pension and company car. I don't see why I have to defend that, that's decided by the players as a salary for their union leader.
"It's quite pathetic. It has been said why can't I manage on £50,000 a year. Well I could, but it's like saying the Chelsea chairman Ken Bates should manage on that and give the rest of his money to the local poor.
"It's a pathetic argument. If I had wanted to make more money out of football I could have become an agent and be a multi-millionaire living in the south of France."
Taylor went on to add: "We feel this is really political, as Ken Bates has confirmed by saying 'we don't want a union'.
"They talk about greedy players, but it's the chairmen who are being greedy. They see me as the head of the association and they have chosen to make it personal – I have chosen not to make it personal.
"They feel if they can get rid of the head of the association that diminishes the association, but we are a lot stronger than that. The solidarity of the players has been confirmed to me and now the general public are getting the message."
The dispute centres around on the proportion of TV cash the Premier League and Football League pay to the PFA in a long-standing agreement dating back to 1955 whereby the players forego any television appearance fee. The PFA say they need the money for their benevolent funds and education programmes for young players who are released by clubs, and that the rich players do not benefit from it at all.
In 1997, the Premier League paid £7.5million a year, which was 5 per cent of the TV deal. Following an improved deal with the television networks, they say they have offered more money, believed to be £10m-12m overall each year, but a lower percentage.
The PFA insist that not only is the percentage smaller but the Premier League are only offering £5.2m. Taylor argues the PFA should be paid 5 per cent again, which equates to about £25m, and many leading players have backed his stance.
A Premier League spokesman denied there had been any attempt to focus attention on Taylor personally. "We are desperately trying not to get drawn into a spat such as this," he said. "The PFA have been saying we want to cut their money, which is not the case. The amount of money on the table is not £5.2m, in fact it is in excess of the previous deal.
"We totally recognise the great work the PFA does and that's why we continue to fund it and why we have made an offer that's higher than the previous deal."
The Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, and his Arsenal counterpart, Peter Hill-Wood, have warned that clubs will stop paying players' wages if they go on strike.
Taylor rejected that threat, however, and added: "If the clubs say they are going to not pay any player who does not play in a televised game, then it would just be for that day. And under employment law neither can they dismiss any player without dismissing all the players. They are saying we have no right to strike, but we are prepared to see them in court."Reuse content