Gordon Taylor expressed his astonishment at Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s continued attacks on players as the PFA chief executive called for clarity on club finances as pay cut talks rumble on.
Football has come under scrutiny as the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, with the Health Secretary quick to highlight the supposed lack of support being offered by well-remunerated players.
Hancock urged top-flight professionals to “take a pay cut and play their part” on Thursday, perhaps unaware that Premier League captains were already in discussions about how players could help during the coronavirus outbreak.
But while that fund edges closer to a launch, other matters remain up in the air. The Premier League suggested players take a 30 per cent wage cut or deferral, only for the Professional Footballers’ Association to issue a statement saying such a move could result in a £200million tax deficit.
PFA Statement on behalf of Premier League players: https://t.co/LFR3Vmg972
— Professional Footballers' Association (@PFA) April 4, 2020
Wayne Rooney said the way the last few days had panned out have been a “disgrace” and the former England captain called into question Hancock’s reasons for focusing on players at a time of national crisis.
But criticism from Rooney and other high-profile figures has not led to change of tack from Hancock, who on Sunday instead doubled down on his call for players to do more.
“I’ve seen that some, for instance footballers, are now making significant donations to charities and I really welcome that, that’s exactly what we need to see,” the Health Secretary told ITV News.
“But instead of having a row about this I think that people should come together and make a contribution.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called on Premier League footballers to donate a portion of their wages to struggling hospices, writes @DanielHewittITVhttps://t.co/9vbB2A1lcPpic.twitter.com/QbIjicHcb3
— ITV News (@itvnews) April 5, 2020
“The hospices of this country have traditionally been largely funded by charity and charity shops.
“Those shops have had to close so I’m putting more money – taxpayer’s money – into hospices to support them but why don’t our footballers club together and support our hospices and support the national effort that we’re all in?
“I think that is the sort of thing that would go down really well and help bring the country together.”
That interview infuriated ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville, who challenged Hancock to debate the matter on Sky Sports, while PFA chief Taylor has been taken aback by the Health Secretary’s comments.
Hey @MattHancock seeing as though you’re focusing on football so much can you come on @SkySportsMNF this week ? Special edition . Questions from the football community / fans will be presented by me , @DavidJonesSky and @Carra23https://t.co/EY5dSexS1M
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) April 5, 2020
Taylor told Telegraph Sport: “I found it astonishing that Matt Hancock could come out like that when he’s got his own issues with trying to get the necessary protective health equipment for our NHS workers and didn’t have the tests in place either.”
The PFA joined the Premier League, League Managers Association and representatives from all clubs on a conference call on Saturday.
Talks will continue this week and Taylor has implored clubs to give the detailed financial information they had been expecting in order to make sure money goes to the right places.
“I think if they can’t do that and explain the position fully then they have every right to expect players to mistrust what is happening,” he said.
Asked if players were concerned about where the money would go, Taylor said: “Exactly that. They want the complete due diligence. They’re not stupid. They’ve not just got their brains in their feet. They want to know the reasons for it and where it’s going.”
The issue of footballers’ pay has become a hot topic since top-flight clubs started placing some non-playing staff on the government’s furlough scheme.
Liverpool controversially became the fifth Premier League team to embrace that framework on Saturday, but Manchester City have confirmed that they will not be furloughing employees at the tax payer’s expense.
PA understands City’s stance was discussed, taken and approved at board level last week, with staff informed before Liverpool’s position became public on Saturday.
Former England midfielder Matt Le Tissier said it was wrong for Hancock to have singled out footballers, while also criticising wealthier clubs for using the furlough scheme.
“If he wants the wealthier people in society to make a contribution, that should be done as a whole and not by singling out one industry,” the former England midfielder told Sky Sports News.
“I think a lot of people look up to footballers but the major concern with people who don’t like them is they feel they’re a little bit overpaid for what they do and that’s understandable. They’re taking home large sums of money they can only dream of.
“There are things the clubs can do to help and when you see huge clubs furloughing their staff I don’t think that’s sending out the right image.
“Liverpool, I feel it’s strange to be honest. The scheme was put in by the government in good faith, when you look at businesses making big profits it’s hard to understand why they’re doing that.
“I think they’re taking advantage of the situation and looking at things from a business perspective. Sometimes things go beyond business and money and I think that needs to be looked at from a moral point of view.”