In the English press, plenty of column inches have been dedicated to football’s response (or perhaps lack of in some cases) with regards to the coronavirus pandemic.
Morals have been questioned as Premier League clubs including Bournemouth, Newcastle, Norwich and Tottenham have all took advantage of the UK Government’s furlough scheme. This has allowed employers, and those aforementioned clubs, to claim back 80% of employee wages paid during the crisis.
Last weekend, Liverpool became the latest top-flight side to announce their intention to furlough non-playing staff. But no sooner had their statement been released that the backlash began for the league leaders. Almost instantly the club’s fans and wider public condemned the move, especially after recording a pre-tax profit of £42 million in their most recent financial results.
Faced with the extreme backlash, the club performed a spectacular U-turn 48 hours later and reversed their decision. In another statement, CEO Peter Moore admitted Liverpool had come to the “wrong decision” and insisted they were “truly sorry.”
Yet for all of the talk surrounding furlough, it is the players themselves that have come under the greatest spotlight. Regular calls for player wage cuts from certain sections of the media and the general public were fuelled by key government ministers including Matt Hancock.
The health secretary was especially vocal last week, urging players to “play their part” as their union, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), came under fire in some quarters for their slow reaction to events.
Football, and footballers, in particular, have always been an easy target because of the vast amounts of money awash in the game. Speaking on beIN SPORTS’ Keys & Gray show, former England manager Sam Allardyce said: “We don’t see anybody writing about other top sportsmen who earn millions and millions of pounds cutting their wages by 30 or 40%.”
“It’s the same old, same old, always aimed at the footballers and that annoys me.”
In the face of criticism, however, all 20 Premier League captains were already working on an initiative that would help towards a developing emergency.
Launched on Wednesday night, the #PlayersTogether scheme aims to raise significant sums of money to be distributed to NHS workers and those in most need during the Covid-19 crisis.
Expected to raise millions of pounds in the short and long term, the move has no doubt been overwhelmingly supported as Premier League players show their moral conscience hasn’t been lost in an era of vast wealth in the game.