Liverpool Football Club, for the last 18 months or so, has been able to do no wrong - both on the pitch and off it.
However, after showing signs of their mortality against Watford, Chelsea and Atlético Madrid in rapid succession, their behind-the-scenes operation is now under the microscope, after taking the controversial decision to furlough staff in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
It's a decision which has created division even within the club, with reports of 'frustration' among players at the announcement after captain Jordan Henderson had rallied Premier League captains to donate wages to the NHS.
“There was also said to be frustration among Liverpool players that the club had announced the decision to furlough staff just as their captain Henderson had received public acclaim for attempting to rally support for the NHS.” - @TheAthleticUK https://t.co/34N5FU8I61— Anfield Edition (@AnfieldEdition) April 4, 2020
The Reds are not the only top-flight team to make the call so far -
It's a pretty sobering reminder that even the most effective and apparently forward-thinking corporate ownership is capable of being out of touch, and Anfield legend Jamie Carragher has led the criticism.
Jurgen Klopp showed compassion for all at the start of this pandemic, senior players heavily involved in @premierleague players taking wage cuts. Then all that respect & goodwill is lost, poor this @LFC https://t.co/9bE8Rw1veE— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) April 4, 2020
Citing a widely-applauded statement from Jurgen Klopp following the initial decision to put English football on pause due to coronavirus, Carragher highlighted the contrast between the compassionate tone of Klopp and the Liverpool players, and the decision made at boardroom level.
"Jurgen Klopp showed his compassion for all at the start of this pandemic, senior players heavly involved in Premier League players taking wage cuts," he said on Twitter.
I don't know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won't be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloghing staff.— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) April 4, 2020
It's just plain fucking wrong.
"I'm particularly disappointed with the decision coming from Liverpool yesterday because it runs against the togetherness and unity the club has always been renowned for, particularly over the last 30 years since Hillsborough," Murphy said.
£42m profit and rely on the taxpayer to pay 80% of wages when we could easily afford to pay in full?— Anfield Edition (@AnfieldEdition) April 4, 2020
Pretty shameful if we’re being honest — very disappointing from the club and overshadows a lot of positive work.
Goes against everything we’re meant to stand for.
"I think there will be a backlash and while the club's business people might think it will save them some money in the short-term, it will cause reputational damage."
The move has been panned almost universally, with many - including Didi Hamann - feeling the scheme was designed for businesses struggling to pay wages, like local bakeries, independent retailers or that new music shop that's just opened up. You know, not Premier League football clubs with billionaire owners making substantial eight-figure profits year on year.
Supporters group Spirit of Shankly has released a statement asking for the club's reasoning behind entering the government scheme.
Astonished by the news that @lfc takes advantage of the furlough scheme to claim 80 % of non playing staffs wages back of the government. That’s not what the scheme was designed for. Contrary to the morals and values of the club i got to know— Didi Hamann (@DietmarHamann) April 4, 2020
Liverpool are expected to win the Premier League when it eventually returns, though it looks increasingly like that will be behind closed doors after Saturday 3pm broadcasting restrictions were lifted at the behest of the English and Scottish FAs.