Rooney slams Hancock: Players have been turned into 'scapegoats'

‘We’ve got a player living on a council estate with his mum.. not everyone can afford a 30% wage cut! Wayne Rooney blasts Matt Hancock and the Premier League for setting up ‘scapegoat’ footballers for a fall amid coronavirus crisis

  • Matt Hancock suggested Premier League players were not ‘doing their bit’ 
  • This led to calls for a wage cut but that has been met with fury among stars 
  • Wayne Rooney has criticised the health secretary and questioned his comments
  • England’s top football stars are plotting a multi-million pound NHS donation 

Former England captain Wayne Rooney has hit out at Matt Hancock after the health secretary said Premier League stars should take a pay cut amid the coronavirus crisis.

There have been calls for players to give up a chunk of their wages in recent days, with the Premier League also suggesting that they should take a pay cut of 30 per cent.

That has been met with fury, with a number of top flight players planning to make direct donations to the NHS as they battle with COVID-19. 

Former England captain Wayne Rooney has hit out at Matt Hancock over his recent comments

The health secretary called on Premier League stars to take a pay cut in a speech last week

Rooney, who now plays for Derby County, suggested players had been turned into ‘scapegoats’

When an employee is placed on furlough they are temporarily put on a leave of absence and not paid, although they remain on the payroll, meaning that they do not lose their job.

This could be because there is no work for these employees, or that the company is not able to afford to pay them, because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

In the United Kingdom, the Government is offering to pay 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s wages, up to £2,500 per month, until they are able to resume their job full time.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will last for at least three months from March 1.

And Rooney, who starred for Manchester United earlier in his career and now plays for Derby County, believes the pressure being put on football’s stars is a ‘disgrace’.

He said in the Times that he would happily support nurses financially, buy ventilators or take a pay cut if Derby asked him to, but added: ‘I’m not every player. I’m 34, I’ve had a long career and I’ve earned well. 

‘I’m in a place 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. First the health secretary, Matt Hancock, in his daily update on coronavirus, said that Premier League players should take a pay cut. 

Rooney pictured alongside NHS nurses in recent weeks as part of a visit with his foundation

‘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?’ 

Rooney – whose testimonial raised £1.2million for charity in 2016 – also suggested there should be a means-tested way of approaching the situation.

He said: ‘I get that players are well paid and could give up money. But this should be getting done on a case-by-case basis. Clubs should be sitting down with each player and explaining what savings it needs to survive. Players would accept that. 

The ex-Manchester United star said he was happy to help but that others might not be able to

‘One player might say, “I can afford a 30 per cent cut”; another might say, “I can only afford 5 per cent.” 

‘Personally, I’d have no problem with some of us paying more. I don’t think that would cause any dressing room problems.’

The 34-year-old then revealed a young player at Championship side Derby – who are likely to fall in line with Premier League plans – who helps support his family would struggle if he was asked to take a significant cut.

He continued: ‘We have one player who lives with his mum on a council estate — not that that matters — who I imagine has responsibility for paying the bills for his whole family. 

Rooney pictured with his wife Colleen and children Kai (top), Klay (front), Kit (second left) and Cass (right) in a post from his Instagram account

‘He’s a footballer but he’s facing the same circumstances as lots of people in our country today.

‘He’s a youngster and hasn’t had time to build up any security to fall back on. A cut might be fine for me but what about him? 

‘Thirty per cent of £2,000-a-week would lose him £600 — and that could be what his family needs to live on. 

‘Remember, players’ careers are short so they have to make investments or have savings, with most facing retirement at 35 but — unlike a previous generation — unable to draw a pension until much later.’ 

The 34-year-old said he could afford to help but others in his team might not be able to do so

While they have faced questions in recent days, Premier League players are understood to be joining together to make a multi-million pound donation to the NHS.

A fund is being put together and organised by Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who has been working with the other 19 skippers in the top flight to pool the money. 

The players were keen to keep the planned donation secret until it was ready to be made, but Hancock’s comments that they were not ‘doing their bit’ led to the news emerging.

It has also been reported that there are fears among stars that a pay cut would lead to lost tax revenue for the Treasury and less money to spend on the NHS, while their clubs might just use it as an opportunity to improve their balance sheet.

Hancock’s comments came during the daily coronavirus briefing on Friday afternoon

A statement from the Gordon Taylor-led PFA players’ union late last week said: ‘Each club’s financial standing will vary. 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.

‘The players we have spoken to recognise that the non-playing staff are a vital part of their club and they do not want to see club staff furloughed unfairly. 

‘Any use of the government’s support schemes without genuine financial need is detrimental to the wider society. In instances where clubs have the resources to pay all staff, the benefit of players paying non-playing staff salaries will only serve the business of the club’s shareholders.’ 

On Friday, players at Rooney’s former side Manchester United agreed to a 30 per cent wage cut for a month on the proviso that the money is used to benefit hospitals and health centres throughout Manchester in the fight against the coronavirus.

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