Players in Norway temporarily laid off due to coronavirus
Professional footballers in Norway have been temporarily laid off as clubs struggle to cope with the economic impact of the spread of the coronavirus, with the government stepping in to cover wages, players' union Niso has told Reuters.
With stadiums closed and uncertainty over TV revenues, clubs in other countries have issued financial warnings as the virus continues to spread, and Norway is believed to be the first country to announce such sweeping temporary layoffs.
While clubs in countries like England and Spain can pay top players and managers huge salaries backed by lucrative TV deals and sponsorship agreements, teams in smaller European countries often live on the edge, trying to pay competitive wages while balancing the books.
Norwegian football acted quickly as the virus took hold, quarantining players who had been abroad for 14 days, cancelling the national team's European Championship play-off with Serbia and suspending all football activity, including training.
The temporary layoffs are the next step in protecting the long-term future of the game, said Joachim Walltin, the director of Niso.
"They are only temporarily laid off at the discretion of their clubs and it is because the authorities have decided that all sports activities, including training, will be stopped until March 26 - they are not dismissed, but are not allowed to work for a temporary period," Walltin explained.
"The authorities have provided emergency packages to help and anyone earning between 75,000 and 600,000 Norwegian crowns (S$9,900 and S$79,000) per year will receive full pay for up to 20 days - what happens after March 26, we must wait and see."
Despite the special circumstances, the union boss said that the layoffs, which apply to men and women at the elite levels of the game in Norway, did not mean that players were free to leave their clubs if they were not paid on time.
Said Walltin: "It is a rather special solution for Norway, and they cannot be automatically transferred to other countries. The authorities are paying many, many billions to help people who are laid off and that helps, of course."
Walltin's comments come after the general secretary of global players' union Fifpro, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, said: "For the first time in decades, we are facing a real economic crisis in football...
"If we don't respond very quickly to stabilise the cash flow, we could see mass layoffs of players and staff members within weeks." - REUTERS