The health secretary Matt Hancock is “deflecting blame” on to footballers by saying they should take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Crystal Palace’s Andros Townsend.
Hancock, part of a government criticised over its response to the Covid-19 outbreak, spoke out on the issue of Premier League players’ pay on Thursday.
He said: “Given the sacrifices that many people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS who have made the ultimate sacrifice of going into work and have caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part.”
Talks are ongoing between the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Premier League and the EFL over the possibility of wage cuts or deferrals to help keep afloat clubs who are struggling financially. The PFA is not against deferrals but is adamant players should make any kind of salary sacrifice only where there is a genuine need.
Townsend said footballers were an “easy target” and pointed to the charitable work he and some of his peers had been involved in since the pandemic began.
“Football is trying to do a lot of good,” the winger told TalkSport. “To wake up yesterday and see footballers being painted as villains was a bit of a surprise. The health secretary, deflecting blame on to footballers, I don’t think that is right. His job is the responsibility of NHS workers.
“NHS workers have been underpaid for years. Only 2,000 of them have been able to be tested for coronavirus. This is not right, these people are putting their lives on the line to try and save lives.
“He is coming out and deflecting on to the easy targets, the footballers, and that doesn’t sit right with me. We do have a responsibility but we are giving back to the community and rightly so. We are in a very privileged position. The community effectively pay our wages. At a time like this we need to give back.”
Townsend said he agreed with the PFA’s stance – that if clubs can afford to continue to pay their non-playing staff without furloughing then they should.
“If the players end up agreeing to a pay cut or deferral and a few days later the PFA find out that these clubs can continue to pay non-playing staff and are choosing not to, then who benefits?” Townsend said. “The NHS are not benefiting, these heroes are not benefiting. If the clubs can continue to pay them and are choosing not to then it is only those clubs that are benefiting.”