Wayne Rooney says it’s a disgrace to target players during coronavirus crisis

Derby County captain and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney has described the current situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic a disgrace, with players facing public pressure to accept a pay cut.

In his weekly column for the Times, the 34-year-old was unapologetically honest when describing how events in recent days have unfolded – worsened by health secretary Matt Hancock’s comments.

On Thursday, Hancock said that Premier League players need to take a pay cut and “play their part” during this pandemic.

Newcastle and Tottenham have been heavily criticised recently after furloughing non-playing staff, while maintaining player wages at their usual levels. Liverpool announced the same yesterday, which has unsurprisingly been met with more public outrage.

Elsewhere, a report in The Athletic today revealed the union representing top-flight footballers has questioned the league’s call for a 30% player wage reduction.

Rooney wrote: “How the past few days have played out is a disgrace. First the health secretary Matt Hancock, in his daily update on coronavirus, said that Premier League players should take a pay cut.

He 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?

“The Premier League then announced it was looking for its players to give up or defer wages by 30%. This despite owners and the Premier League board knowing players were already deep in discussion about what their contribution should be.

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.”

Elsewhere, Manchester City do not intend to furlough their non-playing staff, per an exclusive report in the Telegraph today.

Update: Manchester United are also not expected to follow Liverpool’s decision to furlough staff during this pandemic, per a report in the Standard.

There has so far been no universal agreement regarding wage reductions for players in England and Rooney, who plays for Derby in England’s second tier, said he feels the need to speak up regarding the debate around who earns what.

He said: “I’m talking about footballers, people I have shared dressing rooms with. The pressure put on them is not acceptable and I need to speak up for them. At the moment it’s almost a free-for-all: it’s like the government, Premier League and sections of the media have set the players up to fall.”

In addition to the pay deferral plan, the Premier League has also sanctioned a £125m grant to clubs in the EFL, National League as well as a £20m donation to the National Health Service (NHS) to support the battle against the coronavirus.

Nonetheless, Rooney believes the Premier League’s directive regarding player pay has made easy targets of players.

He added: “For them (EPL) to just announce the proposal, as it has done, increases the pressure on players and in my opinion it is now a no-win situation: if players come out and say they can’t agree or are not willing to cut by 30%, even if the real reasons are that it will financially ruin some, it will be presented as ‘Rich Players Refuse Pay Cut’.

“Whatever way you look at it, we’re easy targets. What gets lost is that half our wages get taken by the taxman. Money that goes to the government, money that is helping the NHS.”

All sports are suspended indefinitely, as a consequence of this outbreak.

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