Swiss club FC Sion have sacked nine players who refused to take pay cuts after European football was suspended due to the coronavirus, with former Arsenal duo Alex Song and Johan Djourou among those sacked.
Most major sports are facing uncertain futures after competitions were halted in order to restrict the spread of COVID-19, which has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths worldwide as of Friday.
Benjamin Quarez of Goal wrote Sion president Christian Constantin messaged his players via WhatsApp on Tuesday asking if they would accept "technical unemployment" deals. According to the report, this would see players receive “around 9600 Swiss francs (roughly $10,000),” a response to the loss of matchday revenue caused by the recent postponements.
Song and Djourou—who made more than 350 combined appearances for Arsenal—were among the higher-profile players released from their contracts, while striker Seydou Doumbia (Newcastle United) and midfielder Pajtim Kasami (Fulham)—who also have experience in the Premier League—also left.
Christian Zock, Ermir Lenjani, Xavier Kouassi, Birama Ndoye and Mikael Facchinetti were the other players sacked by the club.
The report included comment from the Swiss Players’ Union (SAFP) criticising the decision:
“You have terminated the employment contracts of the players without notice by letter dated 18 March 2020. We hereby expressly protest against this termination without notice.”
Sion aren’t the first club to react in the face of difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak, though they appear to be the first example of player lay-offs en masse.
National League team Barnet FC announced on March 17 that all staff (except players) were on notice, including “all first team coaching and backroom staff, the Barnet FC academy and many of the operational staff.”