Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville has hit out at health secretary Matt Hancock for calling on Premier League footballers to “take a pay cut”.
As Premier League clubs meet to consider an indefinite suspension, Hancock called on top-flight professionals to take a pay cut.
Clubs from the Premier League to League Two have placed non-playing staff on furlough leave under the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme but increasing scrutiny is falling on players to take a wage deferral or cut.
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Speaking at the Government’s daily briefing, Hancock said: “I think that everybody needs to play their part in this national effort and that means Premier League footballers too.
“Given the sacrifices that many people are making including some of my colleagues in the NHS who have made the ultimate sacrifice of going into work and have caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part.”
But Neville was quick to register his disagreement on social media.
Neville tweeted: “I wish I was a player for 10 more mins. The PL players are more than likely working on a proposal to help clubs, communities and The NHS.
“It takes longer than 2 weeks to put together. Matt Hancock calling them out when he can’t get tests in place for NHS staff is a fg cheek!”
The Professional Footballers’ Association swiftly released a statement in response to Hancock’s remarks admitting players must “share the financial burden”.
Some Premier League teams have made use of the furloughing scheme – including Tottenham in a move criticised by their former striker Gary Lineker – and the PFA said clubs should only be doing so if it is absolutely necessary.
A statement from the players’ union said: “We are aware of the public sentiment that the players should pay non-playing staff’s salaries. However, our current position is that – as businesses – if clubs can afford to pay their players and staff, they should.”
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