Former England striker Kevin Phillips praised the decision from Liverpool’s owners FSG to cancel their planned furloughing of some non-playing staff but feels that the initial call has damaged the club’s reputation.
On Saturday, the club announced their intentions to place some employees on a furlough scheme, a decision which enraged a number of Reds fans and was criticised by Jamie Carragher. The Spirit of Shankly group subsequently contacted the club with a series of questions as to the decision before it was reversed on Monday. Under the UK’s furlough scheme, workers whose employment is halted by the coronavirus pandemic will have up to 80% of their wages covered by the government.
Speaking to Football Insider, Phillips suggested that the reversal of Liverpool’s original decision may still have come too late to spare them from a partially tarnished reputation. He said: “Liverpool are a huge club. They have earned a hell of a lot of money and they have extremely wealthy owners.
“When you go down to the lower leagues it is a no brainer but for someone the size of Liverpool, having just won the Champions League and the Premier League, you cannot tell me they cannot afford it. Manchester United did not hesitate – 900 staff. The non-matchday staff are not on huge money.
“It is the right decision and you have to give them credit for reversing their decision. But the damage may have been done. It has possibly tarnished their reputation a little bit.”
Phillips is right to commend Liverpool FC for acknowledging that the initial furlough decision was badly misjudged and reversing it within two days after considerable outcry. The owners were under no obligation to bow to external pressure and could have stubbornly insisted that they took a pragmatic business decision. Instead, they had the decency to take large-scale fan opinion on board, hold their hands up to the mistake and go back on it, thus preventing what could have become a messy rift between board and fans if they had dug their heels in.
However, it is also understandable why Phillips feels the whole affair may have soured the reputation of Liverpool and FSG. The owners have largely done an excellent job during their time at the helm, backing Jurgen Klopp in the transfer market so that he could make statement signings such as Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. However, at a time when the country’s morale has plummeted during the coronavirus outbreak, their intentions to furlough some non-playing staff served only to worsen the mood and make them look like cold-blooded business executives treating employees as inanimate assets rather than people with livelihoods to fund.
FSG may have to take on the chin any criticism over the furlough affair but, as Phillips has said, they deserve some credit for going back on their initial decision before things threatened to turn toxic.
Liverpool fans, what do you make of Phillips’ views on the furlough decision and subsequent reversal? Have your say by commenting below!