London: Footballers on high wages have unfairly had a target painted on their back during the coronavirus crisis even though many of them are actively helping out in the community, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said.
Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock sparked a debate last week when he said Premier League players must “play their part” and take a pay cut while the league was suspended so that the clubs’ non-playing staff are not furloughed.
Players in the English top flight earn more in a week than the average Briton earns in years but Solskjaer said it was “unfair” to call out players who are looking at ways they can help National Health Service (NHS) workers on the front line.
“For me football is an easy target sometimes,” he told Sky Sports on Tuesday. “It’s unfair to call on any individual or footballers... I know players do a great amount of work in the community and players are doing a lot to help this situation.
“Discussions are taking place between players and clubs, what kind of contribution they’ll make. It’s not easy for anyone, and to be called out is not fair for me.
“Mistakes are being made and have been made by loads of people and that’s how we learn as well. Now it’s about making better decisions... I think we all want to help the NHS, the communities,” added the Norwegian.
Former England captain Wayne Rooney said the public pressure being exerted on elite footballers to take pay cuts was a “disgrace” and a “desperate” attempt to divert attention from the government’s handling of the pandemic.
The players - and former players now working in media - have been quick to point out that they are indeed “playing their part” through individually supporting charities and the NHS.
The players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), has argued that a pay-cut for players would actually harm the NHS as it would cut their tax contributions.
The PFA also said that players are willing to give up some of their income, but not to let club owners keep it.