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Liverpool make U-turn, won't use government funds to help pay furloughed staff members

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Liverpool have abandoned plans to use UK government funds to pay the salaries of furloughed non-playing staff at Anfield after being subjected to intense criticism from former players, supporters and the media for the move, saying they are "truly sorry" for the controversy.

The Premier League leaders had announced on Saturday that they planned to follow the lead of Newcastle United and Tottenham by applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme -- a government backed financial safety net -- to pay 80% of the wages of furloughed staff. Liverpool had been due to pay the remaining 20%.

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But the move was met with condemnation from former players, including Jamie Carragher, and the Spirit of Shankly supporters' group, who urged the club's American owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), to reconsider their plans.

And following talks over the weekend involving the Anfield hierarchy and FSG, Liverpool, who announced a pre-tax profit of £42 million in February, have now confirmed that they will not seek government funds to pay their staff after coming to "wrong conclusion" when deciding to apply initially.

"First and foremost on behalf of our ownership, Fenway Sports Group, we would like to emphasise the thoughts and concerns of everyone are with those suffering from the dreadful COVID-19 pandemic and the families of those affected," Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore said in a statement.

"Allowing for perspective in these unprecedented and harrowing times, it is important to address an issue we, as an organisation, have been involved in since the weekend.

"We have consulted with a range of key stakeholders as part of a process aimed at achieving the best possible outcome for all concerned. A range of possible scenarios were considered, including but not restricted to: applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which pays 80% of salary and guaranteeing the 20% payment; applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme with a guarantee to reimburse monies received at a later date and, thirdly, finding an alternative means to cover our furlough costs.

"It is as a direct result of this extensive consultation and our own internal deliberations at various levels throughout the club that we have opted to find alternative means despite our eligibility to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

"We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that.

"Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period."

Having now chosen to follow the example set by Manchester City, who have announced they will not furlough staff, Moore added that Liverpool will now pursue alternative avenues for funding the payroll in the absence of football fixtures.

"We are committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme," Moore added.

"But in the spirit of transparency we must also be clear, despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain.

"And like almost every sector of society, there is great uncertainty and concern over our present and future.

"Like any responsible employer concerned for its workers in the current situation, the club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic. These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between.

"It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses. Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have.

"We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage.

"We thank the many amazing people in our club, at all levels, who are committed to helping us do just that, despite the complexity and unpredictability in the world and our industry."