There is an ongoing moral debate about whether football clubs should furlough non-playing staff under the Job Retention scheme put in place by the government to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Employee Job Retention scheme was introduced by the Chancellor to allow businesses to lay people off instead of making them redundant and claim a government grant of 80% of their wages during the furlough period.
  • The scheme applies to all businesses that had employees on the payroll on 28 February 2020 and have been affected by COVID-19, irrespective of the size or wealth of the business.

It has emerged that several of the Premier League football clubs are attempting to use the scheme for non-playing staff while the players themselves continue to receive full pay, despite the fact that all matches have been indefinitely suspended.

Whilst, technically, the actions of these clubs may within the ‘letter of the law’, are they within the spirit of it? Their morality is being called into question at a time when other businesses are going above and beyond to help the country survive the crisis.

The morality debate extends far beyond football's employers.

Several of the largest firms of accountants and auditors have been considering their options of placing staff on furlough. Last week, the Big Four firms together with BDO and Grant Thornton, met to discuss the reputational risks and the appropriateness of accepting coronavirus-driven government assistance. The meeting was organised by the ICAEW and attended by a lawyer appointed by the membership body, according to the Financial Times.

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