UK health minister to Premier League players: Take a pay cut

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Britain health minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday that Premier League players need to take a pay cut and "play their part" amid the coronavirus crisis.

Player wages, with some paid many times more per week than the average Briton takes home in a year, have become a hot topic as club staff are furloughed under a government job retention scheme.

"I think everybody needs to play their part in this national effort and that means Premier League footballers too," Hancock said, highlighting the sacrifices made by National Health service workers who had caught the disease and died.

"The first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut."

Premier League clubs should face a windfall tax unless they tackle the "obscene situation" of players earning fortunes during the coronavirus crisis while other employees take pay cuts, the head of a parliamentary committee said on Thursday.

Talks between the Premier League and the PFA players union over potential wage cuts or deferrals were continuing after no agreement was reached on Wednesday.

Julian Knight, a member for the ruling Conservative party who chairs the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee, said he had written to finance minister Rishi Sunak urging action.

"We are facing an obscene situation where top players who aren't working are continuing to see hundreds of thousands of pounds roll in each week while the staff who keep the clubs going are losing wages," he said.

"If the Premier League isn't going to act to resolve this crisis then the Government must step in by imposing a significant financial penalty on clubs to reimburse those hit hardest in the pocket."

Professional football in England has been suspended until April 30, at the earliest, due to the pandemic with some top flight clubs putting non-playing staff on leave.

Norwich City said on Thursday their players and management had agreed to donate a percentage of their salaries, amounting to more than £200,000, to help those affected by the virus.

Senior management at Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove Albion have taken voluntary three month pay cuts to help protect staff jobs.

Tottenham who imposed a 20% pay cut on 550 non-playing staff on Tuesday, have said they hoped players would end up "doing their bit for the football eco system."

In a separate letter to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, Knight expressed his "strong dismay" and set a Tuesday deadline for the clubs to "do the right thing...or face the consequences".

Knight added that a windfall tax would help fund payments to non-playing staff or help the grassroots game.

The DCMS committee chair said the Premier League should be "role modelling a responsible approach" along the lines of European rivals.

Players at a number of top continental clubs, including Italian and Spanish heavyweights Juventus, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have agreed temporary pay cuts.