Many professional footballers around the world earn little more than an average income and cannot afford to have their wages cut during the coronavirus crisis, the global players union FIFPRO told Reuters Television on Friday.
Players in England's high-earning Premier League have faced calls to accept wage cuts while the sport is at a standstill, but FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said the situation was very different elsewhere.
"Most players can only afford a pay cut as much as any other worker," he said. "Their income is not in the range that people assume it to be.
"They are paid much less, often around average national income. Minimum wage players exist around the world and, for them, any cuts can have drastic personal consequences in terms of simply paying rent or buying groceries for their families."
He added that even within leagues the situation could vary greatly between clubs.
"Juventus has a completely different outlook to the teams in the 17th, 18th or 19th places," he said.
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Last Saturday, Italian champions Juve said their players had accepted wage cuts from March to June, an agreement which Baer-Hoffmann welcomed.
However, he added that while the majority of clubs behaved reasonably, there had also been knee-jerk reactions from a few.
"We have a concern that in some parts of the world many clubs are already turning to unilateral decisions in terms of lay-offs and wage cuts on terms that players simply cannot afford," he said. "The vast majority of clubs are in serious financial distress and, I don't want to generalise, but we do see cases of irresponsible and cynical reactions. ...taking advantage of (the situation) to lay off players."
He reiterated that it was essential to try and conclude the current season in European countries and said he was surprised at the Belgian league's decision on Thursday to abandon its competition and declare leaders Club Brugge as champions.
"We discourage those decisions, if we take them now we have massive consequences," he said. "It's not going to be a pretty situation for many of the players, it's not a good situation for the fans."
Outside the wealthier leagues the impact could be "catastrophic" as clubs could be without any income for six months.
"If this leads to mass insolvencies then, of course, not just players but thousands of other people working around the professional football industry and sports industries will lose their jobs," he added.