Coronavirus: Premier League clubs, players & owners must be 'very careful' about next steps

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Premier League clubs, players and owners "should be thinking very carefully about their next steps" as the row over pay continues, says United Kingdom culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

Football in England has been placed on hold indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) did not agree to a proposed wage reduction of 30 per cent during a meeting with Premier League stakeholders on Saturday.

The PFA claimed the loss of tax contributions would adversely affect government-funded services, with chief executive Gordon Taylor insisting players simply want clarification on where any money they sacrifice will go.

Health secretary Matt Hancock placed pressure on footballers to do their bit as Premier League sides Newcastle United, Tottenham, Norwich City, Bournemouth and Liverpool put non-playing staff on furlough.

However, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville and Gary Lineker have been among the high-profile figures stating it is unfair for players to be singled out during the debate over salary reductions.

Dowden warned the public "will take a very dim view" if footballers and owners do not make a sizeable sacrifice while those with less financial resources struggle.

"We're all missing the drama of sport right now, but this weekend we saw news on the back pages return for all the wrong reasons," he wrote in The Telegraph.

"Given how central sport is to British life, it's perhaps no surprise that its contribution to the coronavirus battle is under the microscope.

"But the deadlock between the Professional Footballers' Association and Premier League clubs on player wage cuts is deeply concerning, especially at a time when more clubs have announced they are furloughing many of their lowest paid staff.

"Players and managers are able to reach people in ways politicians can only dream of. In times such as these, people will look to football for leadership and they have a right to expect it.

"So clubs, players and owners should be thinking very carefully about their next steps.

"Leaving the public purse to pick up the cost of furloughing low paid workers, whilst players earn millions and billionaire owners go untouched is something I know the public will rightly take a very dim view of.

"At a time of national crisis, our national sport must play its part. I expect to see the football authorities judge the mood of the country and come together with an agreement urgently."

Dowden highlighted Marcus Rashford's work to raise money for children relying on free school meals and the fact Harry Maguire and Trent Alexander-Arnold urged members of the public to follow government advice and stay at home.

"It's especially important that a disagreement over players' wages doesn't undermine all the good work that sport - including football - is doing to help the government's efforts to tackle coronavirus," Dowden continued.

"I have the privilege of representing many brilliant industries, but sport was the first to knock on my door with a long list of offers to support the NHS, to help the most vulnerable in our country and keep families occupied and healthy at home.

"Millions of us have benefited from individual sports men and women offering to do their bit."

He concluded: "Sport is vital to Britain's sense of self. It will help us cope with the most difficult times and when, and only when, the time is right and it is safe to do so, the return of live sport will lift the nation like nothing else could.

"And when we are through this and live sport brings us that joy once more, the sector should be able to look back knowing that it too played its part."