Why Arsenal’s staff redundancies are simply indefensible and the latest sign of football’s distorted priorities

The club have announced 55 jobs will be cut, blaming the current financial climate, at the same time as they pursue summer transfer targets set to earn vast wages

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Wednesday 05 August 2020 17:23
New Premier League season to return from September 12

It is a contrast that illustrates how disgracefully skewed football’s priorities are, and how much criticism the Arsenal hierarchy deserve. At the same time as the club’s worried staff are waiting to hear whether they still have jobs, they are actively in negotiations for Willian.

Some sources say the Brazilian has been offered a signing-on fee of more than £10m. Whatever the truth, his wages are certain to run into the hundreds of thousands – and this for the type of forward that the team doesn’t currently have a great need for.

That last point is only the least of the problems with this. It just makes the club’s latest statement about 55 redundancies all the more indefensible from a moral standpoint.

Add it to developments like the fact they have just earned £3.6m for winning the FA Cup, and that Saturday’s victory has secured qualification for the Europa League that bring in tens of millions, and it doesn’t really add up on any level.

Sources say the cuts are mostly set to come in the marketing, hospitality and IT departments, as well as player recruitment. That doubtless makes sense to the decision-makers, since these are jobs without the same purpose amid the Coronavirus crisis.

These redundancies must be put in that context, but the reality is even that context should only bring more moral condemnation of the club.

Sources say the argument the hierarchy make is that many jobs just have zero to do, and won’t see work until 2021. They say they would have sent them to furlough, but couldn’t because of the “moral outrage” about that.

That is to totally miss the point, and the priorities, because the moral outrage remains the same. A club that can afford a squad wage of around £200m – and have its highest-paid player, Mesut Ozil, sitting doing nothing – does not need to make such everyday jobs redundant, or put them on furlough.

A club that has a billionaire owner does not need to make such everyday jobs redundant. It is merely making the most opportunistic decision.

Given the jobs that are expected to go in this round of cuts, it will lead to a saving of – at a conservative estimate – around £2.5m.

That is about the wage of a back-up first-team player at this point, as well as countless current players that wouldn’t make much difference to the overall make-up of the squad if they were sold. A 2% first-team paycut would save multiple jobs, maybe even 1%. That is one player. That’s worth remembering, and really should be one of the only point that matters here.

This is why airy and reactively defensive arguments about the first team being assets, or required to make the European competition that secures jobs, just don’t add up. All that can be managed without these cuts.

There is simply no reasonable way that can be spun. There is simply no reasonable way anyone can justify such expenditure on the playing squad – and especially such inefficient expenditure – with making cuts that don’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things; that will involve the kind of figures that are dismissively thrown back and forth in player purchase negotiations.

Arsenal are set to sign Willian on big wages this summer (Reuters)

It might be some way understandable – if in a very minor way – if they were reining in player expenditure. As the Willian pursuit displays, though, that won’t happen at all. Any Arsenal signing this summer will now merely be a sick joke, especially since we know how negotiations go.

It is all merely an example of the unfeeling hyper-capitalism that has come to engulf the game – particularly among the super-clubs.

Many might say that’s just business – that’s the world football clubs operate in. But that makes stressing this point all the more necessary, and means clubs should be very vocally reminded of it more often.

Football clubs are supposed to be much more than businesses. They’re social institutions, community assets. They have a moral obligation beyond business. Too many have forgotten that. This is just part of a tapestry.

It makes it all the more tragically laughable that, next week, Arsenal are one of six clubs set to announce a commercial partnership based on the idea of giving back to community.

Developments raise the question over whether they even know the meaning of the words any more. They know how to pay lip service, for business purposes.

Just another skewed priority, and far removed from what football clubs are supposed to be about.

Arsenal for most of their history became distinguished, and admired, as a club who did things the right way. This is anything but.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments