Lionel Messi has announced that Barcelona’s first-team footballers will not only take a 70% pay cut for as long as the state of alarm continues in Spain but also make contributions to guarantee that staff at the club earn their full salary throughout the coronavirus crisis.
In a statement also released by Luis Suárez on Monday, Messi embraced the need for the players to be the ones to bear the brunt of the economic impact on the club but criticised the board for their handling of those measures and for what he sees as an attempt to turn public opinion against them.
Barcelona announced last week that they were going apply for an ERTE, which allows companies to impose a temporary pay cut of up 70% on their employees during the crisis. That measure is applied unilaterally, as per Spanish labour laws, and was announced by Barcelona after an agreement with the players for a negotiated settlement had not been reached.
The statement from the players, released on Messi’s Instagram account, accepts that measure and confirms that the players will have their salary cut by the full 70%. On top of that, the first-team squad, whose collective annual salaries amount to €391m (£347m), have promised to protect the rest of the staff. Barcelona had announced that the ERTE would include pay cuts for “non-sporting” staff, although the details were not revealed.
“Beyond the reduction of 70% of our salaries during the state of alarm, we are also going to make further contribution to ensure that the employees can continue to be paid 100% of their salaries for as long as this situation lasts,” Messi’s statement read.
Far from ending tension at the Camp Nou, the statement underlined the mistrust and the breakdown in the relationship between the boardroom and the dressing room.
Spain’s football authorities are no closer to knowing whether competition will resume this season or the full impact on the game. Barcelona were the first club to announce plans to request an ERTE, followed by Atlético Madrid, Espanyol and Alavés, and of the teams in the first division their situation is probably the most precarious. This is the latest in a long series of increasingly public conflicts between the players and the president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, as Barcelona’s institutional and financial crisis deepens.
That mistrust helps to explain why a negotiated settlement proved hard to reach, despite the players’ initial willingness to reduce their salaries. That those negotiations were played out in the press, with players well aware of the relationships the club has with certain media, worsened the situation. Reports were seen by some of the players as deliberate leaks from the board, designed to point the finger of blame at them for a crisis not of their making and forcing them into a corner. Messi was not prepared to let that pass.
“A lot has been written and said about the football first team at FC Barcelona, when it comes to the players’ salaries during this state of alarm,” the statement opened. “First of all, we would like to clarify that we have always been willing to apply a wage cut, because we understand perfectly that this is an exceptional situation and we are ALWAYS the first to help the club when we have been asked to. Indeed, we have often done so on our own initiative in those moments in which we have considered it important or necessary.
“For that reason, we cannot help but be surprised by the fact that from within the club there are those trying to put us under the microscope or apply pressure for us to do something that we have always been clear that we would do,” he added. “In fact, if an agreement has taken a few days to be reached it is simply because we were seeking a formula to help the club and also to help its employees in these very difficult times.
“If we did not speak publicly before, it was because our priority was to find real solutions that could truly help the club and also those who are going to be most affected by this situation.”