Mark Bowen and Nigel Howe, among other senior Reading staff, have agreed to defer “substantial” amounts of their salaries for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the exact figures aren’t given, the deferrals cover their monthly salaries for April, May and June, and aren’t permanent. Bowen, Howe and others will be paid in full for this period, it’ll just happen at a later date.
The club have also confirmed that other non-playing staff are on furlough, as first revealed by BBC Berks’ Tim Dellor a few days ago.
These moves are important for the club financially as the suspension of football means there is significantly less revenue coming in through matchday income. The latest club accounts placed matchday revenue (£4.7m) as a crucial earner - behind only broadcasting (£8m) and commercial (£4.8m).
However, the club are yet to reach an agreement with players about a potential pay cut or deferral. Discussions began last week and are described as “ongoing”.
For Reading, this matter is perhaps more urgent than for many other sides in the Championship. The Daily Mail recently named the club as one of the most precariously placed in this crisis, alongside Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday.
That is because for every £1 the club made in 2018/19, £2.25 was spent on wages, as shown by Reading’s recently released accounts. This season the wage bill is possibly higher and, as we know, income is very much lower right now. Anyone thinking the club can brush off this challenge should ask those staff now furloughed using taxpayers’ money.
In one sense, there is no rush. If players agree to defer these three months’ worth of wages, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether they do it today or on April 30.
The first team to announce a deferral were Leeds United but their players were incentivised with a two percent wage increase in the long run, something Reading cannot and should not do - especially when the overarching issue at the club is that the wage bill is already too high.
Ultimately, if players wish to donate to good causes they have the right to do that privately. But, for us fans, their role in this could be as significant as whether we even have a club left to support in five years’ time. Championship players are not on, and shouldn’t be in the same galaxy as, the breadline. Everyone must do their bit.