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  1. ITV Report

Wayne Rooney: Footballers treated as scapegoats in coronavirus crisis

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

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 £200m tax deficit.

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.

Mr Hancock has since told ITV News that footballers should consider giving their planned donation to struggling hospices.

Matt Hancock has previously been critical of footballers. Credit: PA

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?

“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 has questioned the Premier League's process. Credit: PA

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.”

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