Rooney says handling of Premier League pay row ‘a disgrace’

LONDON (AFP) – Wayne Rooney has criticised the government and the Premier League for placing footballers in a “no-win situation” over proposed pay cuts after a warning from players’ representatives that National Health Service (NHS) coffers could suffer.

The former England captain, now playing with Championship side Derby, penned an impassioned column in the Sunday Times saying his fellow professionals were “easy targets” in the wider response to the coronavirus crisis.

Rooney made it clear he had both the means and the will to make 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.

The Premier League’s suggested strategy involving a combination of pay cuts and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of wages, was discussed in a conference call with players’ and managers’ representatives on Saturday.

Initial talks were already ongoing before key political figures, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, called for action.

File photo shows Derby County player Wayne Rooney celebrating. PHOTO: XINHUA

“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,” wrote Rooney.

He added, “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.”

The Premier League has been seen as lagging behind other European leagues in its response to coronavirus and was accused by one British lawmaker of operating in a “moral vacuum”.

But Rooney questioned the wisdom of the Premier League in preempting behind-the-scenes talks involving players with its own proposals for sweeping reductions.

“In my opinion it is now a no-win situation,” he said. “Whatever way you look at it, we’re easy targets.”