Sheffield United were due to visit St James Park on 7 March 2020, only for the Premier League matches to be suspended for the foreseeable future the previous day.
The Blades have done remarkably well to not only get a second promotion in three years and rise from League One to Premier League, they have more than held their own in the top tier.
They are seventh in the table but if they won their game in hand it would out them fifth in the Premier League.
Off the pitch they have also impressed, showing ambition with a £40m net spend last summer and then whilst Mike Ashley refused to allow Newcastle to buy anybody in January, Sheffield United signed Norwegian international midfielder Sander Berger for £22m.
Now the Bramall Lane club have announced what their response to the virus crisis is and once again, they have impressed.
Sheffield United have released an official statement (see below) saying that they have furloughed some staff ‘who are unable to perform their regular day to day duties at this time.’
They explain that this is mainly casual staff and a small number of permanent employees.
However, the furloughing of staff doesn’t automatically equal taking advantage of the government’s job retention scheme, whereby the taxpayer take responsibility for 80% of their pay.
In actual fact, Sheffield United are committed to paying 100% of the furloughed staff’s pay as normal and it is only if they find later their finances dictate (once all the financial implications due to the virus are known) that they need the help of the government money, would they consider applying for any cash.
This is in direct contrast to Mike Ashley who was the first Premier League club owner to exploit and abuse the government scheme, simply because he could, getting the taxpayer to take responsibility for financially supporting most of his NUFC staff. Although even more shamefully, he hasn’t even had the manners and integrity to put out any public statement explaining / justifying the move, instead it came to light due to NUFC employees making public emails they had received from Ashley, via Lee Charnley.
Sheffield United have actually put these staff on leave (furloughed) whilst continuing to pay all their wages, for another reason, a very positive one.
Those staff still to be paid by Sheffield United BUT now having ‘the green light to sign up for the NHS volunteering scheme or similar initiatives in lieu of regular employment at Bramall Lane or other Club sites.’
The list of clubs continues to grow when it comes to shaming Mike Ashley and what he has done at Newcastle United during this crisis, yesterday we even saw West Ham and the likes of Karren Brady doing the right thing, unlike Ashley with NUFC.
The best way to describe it I think, is that Mike Ashley is taking the government/taxpayer money simply because he can do it, whilst clubs such as Sheffield United will only do it if left no other choice sometime long in the future.
Sheffield United Official Statement:
‘Sheffield United Football Club has informed its staff of the decision to furlough some employees who are unable to perform their regular day-to-day duties at this time.
These are predominantly casual employees but include a small number of permanent staff.
The Club confirms that permanent and casual staff will continue to be paid in full, despite the challenges of dealing with the impact of Covid-19.
Those furloughed have been given the green light to sign up for the NHS volunteering scheme or similar initiatives in lieu of regular employment at Bramall Lane or other Club sites.
Senior officials at the Club are aware of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.
At a later date, after the full financial impact of the situation can be more accurately quantified, the Club will assess whether or not to participate in the JRS.
All at Sheffield United Football Club would also like to pass on the best wishes to everyone, locally, nationally and internationally, affected by the current pandemic.”