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THIS IS NOT A GOOD LOOK FOR FSG - AT ALL.

Byline: IAN DOYLE Chief LFC reporter ian.doyle@reachplc.com @IANDOYLESPORT COMMENT

IVERPOOL boss Jurgen Klopp was praised for his compassionate and empathetic response to the coronavirus crisis.

LHis players soon became involved in making numerous charitable donations to help people across the city and beyond.

Reds skipper Jordan Henderson emerged at the forefront of a Premier League-wide initiative to provide funds for the NHS, while many senior players remain in discussions over the squad and senior staff taking a sizeable pay cut.

And then Fenway Sports Group got involved. It would be wrong to say their decision to furlough staff and use the government's job retention scheme to pay 80% of their wage has polarised opinion.

The reality is there are very few supportive of the measure.

Liverpool could argue they are merely doing what many other businesses have and will do over the coming weeks and months, and are at least topping up the pay of their staff to ensure none are financially disadvantaged by being temporarily laid off.

They have looked after their employees first and foremost, and not many companies will do that.

But it isn't a good look for FSG. It isn't a good look at all.

After so many successes on and off the field, the club's owners have now contributed a spectacular public relations own goal that leaves them open to fevered and understandable criticism.

Of course, Liverpool aren't the first to follow this route.

Tottenham Hotspur were roundly lambasted in midweek for furloughing staff using the government scheme, while Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth have done the same.

Is what they are doing legally wrong? Of course not. As hard-nosed businessmen - and, let's not forget, there's a reason why John Henry is a billionaire - they would argue it would be foolish not to take advantage.

That doesn't make it morally right, though. The scheme is designed to primarily help small businesses who are affected by the ongoing lockdown. It's for those who simply don't have the trade or the means to pay their staff during this indefinite period.

Liverpool, who less than six weeks ago announced they had made a pre-tax profit of PS42million for the 2018/19 campaign, can't be considered in that bracket, even if the club, like their Premier League rivals, could take a substantial financial hit from broadcasters if the current season is not completed.

FSG could contest the club pays its taxes - and vast sums compared to some other much larger businesses - so are as eligible as anyone to use the government scheme.

But that's not the point. The sums are rough, but even if the club are taking PS1million a month from the government, is that saving really worth the negative impact the approach will have on their image? Most would argue not.

It's also curious timing that the confirmation of the furloughing came on the day the PFA and Premier League clubs were in discussions over a uniform 30% pay cut for players across the top flight.

Why not wait until after that was at least resolved? Going to the government for handouts before players' wage cuts are officially ratified seems an unnecessary and easily avoidable move.

Fans of other clubs yet to make clear their stance on furloughing should be hesitant before taking the moral high ground, however.

Matters will go one of two ways. Liverpool could conceivably respond to the adverse reaction - as they did after the supporter mass walkout following the announcement of ticket price increases in 2016 - and backtrack on their decision.

However, if they stick to their guns, then other Premier League clubs will be encouraged to make the same move, no doubt believing if Liverpool can benefit from the scheme, then why shouldn't they? These are unprecedented times and people - me, you, business owners, everyone - are being asked to make choices that seemed inconceivable mere weeks ago.

This is a poor one from Liverpool. But it's not too late for them to change.

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Author:IAN DOYLE Chief LFC reporter ian.doyle@reachplc.com @IANDOYLESPORT COMMENT
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 5, 2020
Words:673
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