SHOWS: NEAR HEIDELBERG, GERMANY (APRIL 3, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 1.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "Clearly what's obvious is that if we don't manage to finish this season, which of course we can only do if it's safe for everybody involved, but if government standards and health advice would not allow us to play games and finish this season the economic impact far beyond those leagues that we just referenced with regards to England and France which are bigger markets far beyond those the impact could be catastrophic because you're talking about clubs potentially having income gaps for half a year." 2.
WHITE FLASH 3.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "If this leads into massive insolvencies that means not just players but of course thousands of other people working in and around the professional football industry or sports industries will lose their jobs and in that sense of course not only is the social impact of losing these clubs and losing football so dear for many fans but also purely economically it is another industry like many others that employs many people and whose jobs are on the line so the pressure is enormous to find a way to finish football this year somehow." KNOKKE-HEIST, BELGIUM (FILE - OCTOBER 21, 2019) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 4.
TEAM JOGGING 5.
CLUB BRUGGE SIGN 6.
DEFENDER SIMON DELI 7.
TRAINING UNDERWAY NEAR HEIDELBERG, GERMANY (APRIL 3, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 8.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "Well the Belgian decision to be honest came relatively surprising at this time for us because we still feel that every chance needs to be given to finishing the league.
What's important is I think that there's some very unique circumstances that as far as we understand led to that decision.
The first thing is that apparently the broadcasting money has been secured for the clubs regardless of where they end up playing those last games or not, which substantially of course changes the view of the clubs on the impact of such a decision.
But also I think it's very important to understand that it is an actual decision by the league and the clubs that they will apparently ratify in two weeks and it's not one that is based on a government decision.
That I think is still very important to bear in mind because of course that has many implications." 9.
WHITE FLASH 10.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "And you can see also the reaction I think from the other football stakeholders today being quite negative about this and we hear that it may also have consequences with regards to qualification spots for European competitions next season so yes there are many, many open ends to this one as well." NAPLES, ITALY (FEBRUARY 24, 2020) (FILE - REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 11.
LIONEL MESSI WALKING ON TO PITCH AT STADIO SAN PAOLO 12.
VARIOUS OF MESSI DURING TRAINING BARCELONA, SPAIN (FILE - MARCH 24, 2016) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 13.
NOU CAMP EXTERIOR 14.
FC BARCELONA LOGO ON STADIUM NEAR HEIDELBERG, GERMANY (APRIL 3, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 15.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "There are many factors to this and I always think it's a bit dangerous to comment on processes where there are ongoing negotiations like the case in England right now but a few things to consider that applies more broadly; number one, in most leagues the economic situation of clubs are vastly different.
Juventus has a completely different economic outlook than team 17, 18, 19, 20 in the first league (Serie A).
So they need different responses.
Wherever of course voluntarily and in good agreement with the players and their unions these agreements are made that we see as the most sustainable way of managing through this crisis and we very much encourage to do so." MADRID, SPAIN (FILE - SEPTEMBER 17, 2019) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 16.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT GONZALO HIGUAIN, ALEX SANDRO, RONALDO AND JUAN CUADRADO ON PITCH THE DAY BEFORE A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCH AT ATLETICO MADRID 17.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT RODRIGO BENTANCUR, HIGUAIN, SANDRO, RONALDO, DYBALA, CUADRADO, MERIH DEMIRAL, DANILO AND MATTHIJS DE LIGT POSING FOR A PHOTOGRAPH 19.
PLAYERS STANDING AROUND AFTER PHOTOGRAPH IS TAKEN 20.
DANIELE RUGANI (MIDDLE, FACING CAMERA), WHO ALSO RECENTLY TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS NEAR HEIDELBERG, GERMANY (APRIL 3, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 21.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "The first thing I think that's important to understand is that many of the players when they accept these cuts, which of course we have seen many do, I think they have a legitimate request to know what this money is being used for.
Is this used to really secure the employment of the other staff in the club?
Is this used to maybe help other players in lower leagues who may have a very limited income to make sure that they still get paid throughout this crisis and there are many dimensions to this.
There are also of course considerations on the broadcasting deals, on potentials of repaying those amounts at a later stage." 22.
WHITE FLASH 23.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "Well I don't want to generalise here.
I mean, of course many clubs and the vast majority of clubs is in serious financial distress.
There's no question but we do see cases for sure where we think these are irresponsible and, well, a little bit cynically speaking yes taking advantage of a reasoning to lay off players.
You mentioned FC Sion, that clearly was a very, very quick decision without any real honest dialogue from what we perceived with the players or their representatives.
But there are other cases; we've had a club in Slovakia entering into voluntary liquidation to basically write-off payroll costs but they will continue playing the season so nobody can talk about real bankruptcy here.
And those are, from our perspective, illegitimate attempts to save costs and at the advantage of the playing group and of course we will need to act against that and protect the players in these circumstances." MINSK, BELARUS (MARCH 28, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 24.
SOCCER GAME SEEN BEHIND FENСE 25.
VARIOUS OF SOCCER FANS ON STANDS CHEERING AND CHANTING, SEEN BEHIND FENCE NEAR HEIDELBERG, GERMANY (APRIL 3, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 26.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFPRO GENERAL SECRETARY, JONAS BAER-HOFFMANN, SAYING: "We're trying to help those players and try and find solutions but unfortunately they're not in their governance in terms of stakeholder representation and unionisation they're not as advanced and that makes it harder but generally speaking of course it seems absurd that while almost all of football is shutdown and public life is so severely affected why the situation in those countries would allow everything to go ahead as normal.
So we're very concerned about this and it seems like quite irresponsible decisions." MINSK, BELARUS (MARCH 28, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 27.
VARIOUS OF SOCCER PLAYERS TRAINING ON PITCH 28.
TEAM LOGOS DISPLAYED ON SCREEN STORY: World soccer players' union FIFPRO's General Secretary said that ending leagues early could be "catastrophic" despite the sport being at a standstill around the world from the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to Reuters on Friday (April 3), Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said failing to complete the current season was not an option at the moment.
"The impact could be catastrophic because you're talking about clubs potentially having income gaps for half a year.
"If this leads into massive insolvencies that means not just players but of course thousands of other people working in and around the professional football industry or sports industries will lose their jobs," he added.
On Thursday (April 2), Belgium's soccer association (KBVB) declared that Club Brugge were this season's champions, with a working committee to decide promotion and relegation issues.
Baer-Hoffmann described the decision as "relatively surprising", but admitted that part of the reason the decision was made was because broadcasting money had already been secured for the clubs whether the remaining matches were played or not.
The English Premier League announced on Friday that clubs will consult with their players over a 30% reduction in wages and have voted to provide 125 million pounds ($153.13 million) to lower league teams to help with cash flow problems. Baer-Hoffmann said that it is right that players know what their money would be used for in these circumstances.
He was also concerned that there had been cases of clubs using the crisis as an excuse to terminate contracts early, sack players or declare bankruptcy simply as an instrument for not paying bills and wages.
Last month, Swiss club FC Sion sacked nine of their players for reportedly refusing to sign a wage cut agreement.
While football has stopped almost everywhere, it is still being played in Belarus, which Baer-Hoffmann said FIFPRO were "very concerned about this and it seems like quite irresponsible decisions".
(Production: Tim Hart, Mike Brock)