Reading have, finally, announced a wage deferral for its first-team players, in light of the ongoing football shutdown prompted by coronavirus. The news was teased at the weekend by manager Mark Bowen, who told BBC Berkshire that a deferral was due to be announced in the coming days.
Details around the deferral are light, although that’s understandable given that it relates to financial agreements with players. We do know that the agreement relates to ‘first-team players’, it covers a three-month period of their pay (May, June and July), and the amount of money deferred is described as a “substantial percentage” of their earnings.
On the flipside, we don’t know how much of the squad signed up to this, whether or not anyone declined, how big the deferral is, and if it’s the same percentage for all players who took part. I wouldn’t expect any of that information to come out though.
That all being said, this is very good news for Reading. The club’s wage bill is still very large, and the latest set of accounts (2018/19) showed that our wages-to-turnover ratio was not only the biggest in the division, but it also set a Championship record. That ratio will probably have changed this season, but the Royals were still in a vulnerable position going into the Covid-19 crisis and subsequent loss of matchday income - a key source of revenue.
Getting this financial boost will help, albeit in the short term. It’s worth remembering that the players will get this pay, just at a later date, so more financial juggling will have to be done further down the line.
This comes on the back of a few other financial measures taken by the club. Mark Bowen, Nigel Howe and other senior staff at Reading agreed their own deferral in mid-April, the entire Women’s squad was furloughed, while the same happened to some under-23s and some non-playing staff.
Mark Bowen confirmed to me some staff at Reading FC are on Furlough. He also said he expects some games to be played behind closed doors but players will need at least a couple of weeks to prepare for a restart. We talked about financial issues at the club. 3pm @BBCBerkshire— Tim Dellor (@TimDellor) April 11, 2020
Considering the numbers involved in each of these cases though, agreeing this wage deferral is the biggest financial step the club has taken so far.
Getting there took “naturally complex negotiations”, according to the club, which explains the lengthy delay. Captain Liam Moore put that down to ensuring the wage deferral worked financially for all the players that agreed to take part:
“It is important to mention that this has taken a little bit of time, but it was important we ensured it was right for every individual concerned. It was my job as captain to make sure each player who entered into the agreement felt 100% comfortable in what they were signing up to.
“I want to say a big thank you to the PFA who have had a lot of conversations with us and have been very supportive in getting us all to where we needed to be. And I must also thank Nigel Howe; it’s great to have a relationship with the CEO where you can pick up the phone and ask him anything and his hard work has helped us come to an agreement that is best for this football club.”