Wayne Rooney slams health secretary Matt Hancock, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Wayne Rooney slams health secretary Matt Hancock

Ex-England captain says hounding of players is a 'disgrace', adds that players are not opposed to pay cuts

Former England captain Wayne Rooney said the public pressure being exerted on elite footballers to take pay cuts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is a "disgrace", according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week that English Premier League players should take pay cuts and the EPL said clubs were in talks over a 30 per cent reduction.

"How the past few days have played out is a disgrace," Rooney wrote.

"First the health secretary... said Premier League players should take a pay cut. Was he desperate to divert attention from his government's handling of this pandemic?

Rooney questioned why the EPL had announced publicly that it was looking for its players to give up or defer 30 per cent of their wages.

"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," he wrote.

"Whatever way you look at it, we're easy targets."

Football in England has been suspended indefinitely due to the outbreak and several clubs, including Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, have furloughed non-playing staff.

Rooney, who captains Championship side Derby County, added that decisions on pay cuts should be made on a case-by-case basis.

"One player might say, 'I can afford a 30 per cent cut'; another might say, 'I can only afford five per cent,'" he said.

"I don't think that would cause any dressing room problems."

The players union in England has also questioned the league's public call for wage reductions, and Rooney said players were in a "no-win situation".

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) warned yesterday of a £200 million (S$353.1m) shortfall for British government coffers if a sweeping cut in wages was introduced for EPL players to offset the financial fallout from the coronavirus.

Clubs and players' representatives discussed a combination of pay cuts and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of annual salary. However, no immediate agreement was reached.

"All Premier League players want to, and will, play their part in making significant financial contributions in these unprecedented times," said a PFA statement.

"We welcomed the opportunity to discuss this with the Premier League today and we are happy to continue talks."

However, the PFA insisted it was too simplistic to criticise multi-millionaire players for not easily agreeing to cuts.


"The proposed 30 per cent salary deduction over a 12-month period equates to over £500m in wage reductions and a loss in tax contributions of over £200m to the government," the PFA statement added.

"What effect does this loss of earning to the government mean for the National Health Service?"

Former England internationals Gary Neville and Gary Lineker, meanwhile, both suggested that players would do their bit to help in the fight against the coronavirus and did not require prodding to do so.

Neville told Sky Sports: "I have got great faith in football...

"They're just lucky enough to be in the one per cent of people who dream of being a footballer and make it.

"I think if you asked those Premier League players do they want to contribute to the NHS, to the communities to the challenge the country is facing now, they'd say absolutely they do."

Lineker, meanwhile, told Sky Sports: "Let's give them a chance to respond, before this hugely judgmental pile-on that we always get nowadays...

"I'll be the first to criticise them if they do nothing."

Players at European giants Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have all already taken pay cuts. - AFP, REUTERS