Coronavirus wrap: Rooney says footballers have been treated like scapegoats

Wayne Rooney believes it is “a disgrace” that the nation’s top footballers were lined up as “easy targets” in the wider response to the coronavirus crisis.

The former England captain, now playing in the Championship with Derby, said the Government and the Premier League had left them in a “no-win situation” over the issue of pay cuts.

The Premier League have suggested a 30 per cent wage cut or deferral but the Professional Footballers’ Association issued a statement suggesting such a move could result in a £200million tax deficit.

 Wayne Rooney has defended his fellow professionals from external pressures
Wayne Rooney has defended his fellow professionals from external pressures (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Against that background the overt calls on footballers to commit to financial measures from key political figures, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, have not been well received.

Rooney made it clear he had both the means and the will to make significant financial contributions, either in the form of salary reductions or direct donations to the NHS, but felt the public pressure being exerted on players was unhelpful.

“If the Government approached me to help support nurses financially or buy ventilators I’d be proud to do so – as long as I knew where the money was going,” Rooney wrote in his Sunday Times column.

“I’m in a position where I could give something up. Not every footballer is in the same position. Yet suddenly the whole profession has been put on the spot with a demand for 30 per cent pay cuts across the board. Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats?

Matt Hancock instructed Premier League players to “take a pay cut and play their part” (Pippa Fowles/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street)
Matt Hancock instructed Premier League players to ‘take a pay cut and play their part’ (Pippa Fowles/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street)

“How the past few days have played out is a disgrace. He (Hancock) was supposed to be giving the nation the latest on the biggest crisis we’ve faced in our lifetimes. Why was the pay of footballers even in his head? Was he desperate to divert attention from his Government’s handling of this pandemic?”

Rooney went on to question the wisdom of the Premier League in pre-empting behind-the-scenes talks involving players with its own proposals for sweeping reductions.

He added: “It seemed strange to me because every other decision in this process has been kept behind closed doors, but this had to be announced publicly. Why? It feels as if it’s to shame the players – to force them into a corner where they have to pick up the bill for lost revenue.

“In my opinion it is now a no-win situation. Whatever way you look at it, we’re easy targets.”

Gary Lineker picked up the theme as he swapped his usual weekend seat on the Match of the Day panel for a remote appearance on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.

He said: “Why not call on all the wealthy to try and help if they possibly can rather than just pick on footballers?

“Nobody seems to talk about the bankers, the CEOs, huge millionaires. Are they standing up? Are they being asked to stand up? We don’t know.

“Footballers do an extraordinary amount of good in the community, lots of them will already be giving in their own silent ways and I know that plans are afoot to make their contributions to society.

“The players I’ve spoken to are all desperately keen to do it. The problem is how you do it. It’s obviously complicated and it takes time. People are always quick to jump on the judgemental high horse, certainly when it comes to footballers but lots of them do lots of really good things and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so.

“I expect an announcement to come in the next few days, the next week or so.”

Manchester City confirmed they will not be furloughing employees at the tax payer’s expense.

Manchester City will not be accessing a government furlough scheme.
Manchester City will not be accessing a government furlough scheme (Richard Sellers/PA)

On Saturday table-topping Liverpool became the fifth Premier League side to announce that some non-playing staff would be stood down, with the government covering 80 per cent of affected wages and the club topping up the remainder.

There has been considerable criticism that the safety net was not created to cover high-revenue sports teams but PA understands City’s stance was discussed, taken and approved at board level last week, with staff informed before Liverpool’s position became public.

Wolves forward Leonardo Campana revealed his whole family have recovered from Covid-19.

The 19-year-old Ecuador international, yet to make his debut following his arrival in January, told an Instagram Q&A: “I was diagnosed two or three weeks ago. Thank God, I’m feeling fine today.

“First one to get sick was my brother, then my mum, and then me. My dad and my sisters were also with us. I spoke to the club doctor and he told us to keep calm and to stay at home for two weeks.”

In cricket, England’s centrally contracted players banded together last week to offer a package worth £500,000 to support the wider game and selected good causes.

The sum equates to 20 per cent of their salary for the next three months, but fast bowler Mark Wood said it was a simple decision.

“We were unanimous in wanting to help out,” Wood told BBC Sport.

“We have obligations as professional sportsmen to be role models. We didn’t just want to give to our sector, but also a charity of our choosing.

“We had a discussion among ourselves and it didn’t take long to come to an agreement.”

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