The impacts of Covid-19 on the professional game have been significant and far-reaching.
The initial suspension of all professional football, followed by a reopening behind closed doors, had an unexpected and unprecedented impact on the income of clubs at all levels, with planned-for revenue - including ticket sales, matchday spending and non-footballing activities at stadiums such as concerts and events - all being lost.
Clubs have also experienced difficulty planning future revenues, with uncertainty over stadium reopenings, capacities, and the additional costs of ensuring fans can attend matches safely. Even as we look to a brighter future, clubs are likely to proceed with caution.
This uncertainty has resulted in clubs making tough decisions regarding staff retention and contracts as they plan for the immediate and long-term future.
Severe financial challenges have also, unfortunately, resulted in situations where there have been failures, or delays, in players being paid by their clubs.
This situation has regrettably become too familiar in the professional game. The human impact caused to members and their families by this financial uncertainty should not be forgotten. Particularly when many players already face the uncertainty associated with short term contracts.
One of the primary roles of the PFA is to support and represent members whose employers have failed to pay them their contracted salary in full and on time. There can be many reasons for this, and the PFA performs a crucial function in opening lines of communication between members, clubs and leagues, to find a resolution for its members.
The PFA has recently been working with members at Sheffield Wednesday regarding issues with player payment. Ritchie Humphreys, PFA Delegate Liaison Executive, has urged members who might be affected by issues to use the support the PFA offers.
Humphreys said: “Players all understand that clubs can experience financial difficulties, and the events of the past year have heightened the challenges that clubs face.
“However, it remains an important principle that players can be expected to be paid in time and in full, in line with their contract.
“One of the main obstacles that players can face in situations like this is a lack of clear communication.
“Often, there will be an issue involving players who are still under contract at a club, alongside those who have since moved to another club or whose contract has expired. That can make it challenging for players to present a united voice.
“It also makes it difficult for players who might be concerned about their professional reputation and who will understandably not want to be seen as causing problems for the club.
“It can be a difficult situation, but that’s where the PFA is so valuable. We can ensure that players have a single voice and are all kept fully informed of any issues or developments.
“Members have told us that the PFA’s involvement makes it easier for clubs and the league to understand where the issues are and enables a quicker and fairer resolution to any problems.”
Much of the important day-to-day work undertaken by the PFA on behalf of members often takes place away from the spotlight.
However, new PFA Chief Executive Maheta Molango wants to ensure that members are aware of the support the PFA offers and make full use of the available services.
Molango said: “I’ve played and worked both in England and overseas, and there is no other country where the players’ union has the same degree of input into contract and payment issues on behalf of players.
“The approach the PFA takes to collective bargaining means that, whatever stage they are at in their careers, no member is left on their own when experiencing difficulties.
“Players have a right to expect to be paid in full and on time, and for their terms of employment to be met.
“I hope that any members who may have concerns around employment conditions, contracts or salaries will make full use of the support and representation the PFA provides them as their union.”