Frankfurt / Main (dpa) – Christian Streich took his striker Ermedin Demirovic to the chest, whose new luxury runabout was featured on Instagram. It was “naive,” said the coach, but, “The money he earns can be invested at will. We live in a free country.”
The clubs of course know what they pay their footballers and what they can pay from it. More than ever, they fear the effect of such images in the Corona crisis. The stars’ millions of salaries are a big deal given the financial troubles that more and more Bundesliga clubs are catching. However, as an employer, hands are tied: professionals only have to worry about their high income to a limited extent.
“If a footballer has to fear something, then the question is, what happens after my current contract expires – or if my club has to file for bankruptcy?”
According to Gregor Reiter, general manager of the German Football Association (DFVV), most Bundesliga players still have contracts’ at the ‘pre-Corona’ level, so that in the first instance – apart from the voluntary salary cuts – for the players at least not much has changed in that relationship. “For the future, much will depend on how long the fans will be left out.” No one can predict that the spectators will flock to the stadiums again when they are finally allowed, “Reiter warned.
Many players earn a one-digit million salary per year, the top stars even double-digits. At the start of the pandemic, according to the director of DFVV, the pay cuts among players were on average between ten and twenty percent. Given the partial lockdown with ghost games, this development has now started again. FC Schalke 04 confirmed last week that they had found “a very good, amicable compromise” with the team – valid until the end of the season.
At the same time, some seem unwilling to compromise in this economic mix. Uli Hoeneß, Honorary President of Bayern, criticized David Alaba’s contract extension: “He has a greedy piranha as an advisor.”
Someone like Alaba will find a club next summer that will generously reward him – a million or not. A second grader like Marcel Heller, for example, who was no longer employed by Darmstadt 98, had to wait until October before joining SC Paderborn: “I never thought I would get into the situation myself.”
In any case, the clubs only have the longer leverage when the contracts have expired. Christian Seifert, director of the German Football League (DFL), said that any club today would do well to cut fixed costs – “and that includes staff costs”. Many clubs have long started on a small scale – with those employees who only burden the budget marginally. In the big picture it is difficult. The issue of voluntary wage exemption is said to have sparked the players’ uprising at FSV Mainz around Adam Szalai. Exactly how much money has been lost and whether it has already been paid back – most Bundesliga clubs are silent about it.
Personnel costs, which have been rising for years, are the clubs biggest spending factor. In the DFL business report 2020 you can read that the 18 clubs from the top division spend more than 1.4 billion euros on the salaries of their coaches and players in the 2018/19 season.
How do you get off this mountain? Fan organizations have long argued for a healthy economy. The “Salary Cap” is also discussed in the DFL Task Force “Future of Professional Football”. This could be against EU law, but there are also reports invalidating this assumption.
In any case, Seifert had already indicated that he would be the first to go to Brussels: “I am in favor of giving it a try. Such limits could apply not only to the sometimes exorbitant player salaries, but also to adviser fees and transfer fees. “
According to Jörg Schmadtke, sports director at VfL Wolfsburg, the practice still looks like this: “If clubs want to buy a player, they are very happy to lead the pandemic to discuss prices. If they want to sell, I have the impression that there is no pandemic. “
Voluntary forgiveness of part of the salary is, according to labor attorney Hoefs, the only way for clubs to forgo a little bit of their high personnel costs. “Theoretically, clubs only have the option to cancel changes to their current contracts. This option is often not offered by fixed-term contracts with professional footballers,” explains the company lawyer.
The situation is different when a club – such as third division 1. FC Kaiserslautern – files for bankruptcy. “The curator then has completely different options. Then the contracts with the high salaries are not worth much more. The curator has a special right of termination,” says Hoefs.
Can a professional football player actually be sent to short-time working? “In theory that can’t be ruled out. It would just require game operations to be completely suspended or drastically reduced for a period of time.”