After comments from Matt Hancock, Premier League footballers have unwittingly found themselves in the spotlight as top flight football in England approaches its fourth week without a match due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock's answer to a football related question in the UK government's daily press conference on Thursday 2nd April seems to have fired the starting gun for open season on the Premier League's top stars.
Hancock's remark that Premier League footballers should take a pay cut seems to have got people hot under the collar on both sides of the debate.
Former Premier League stars wade in after Hancock comments
Ex Premier League footballers, Gary Neville, and Joey Barton, along with TV presenter and former footballer Gary Lineker, have been quick to jump to the defence of their former peers, and I can see why.
Lineker said he believes that Premier League players are already in discussions to take pay cuts, and asked for "patience" before the inevitable judgemental pile on.
Former Man Utd star and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville was a bit more blunt and too the point. Neville tweeted that Hancock had a "f***ing cheek," especially when the government Hancock is a part off, can't even organise Covid-19 testing for NHS staff.
I wish I was a player for 10 more mins.The PL players are more than likely working on a proposal to help clubs , communities and The NHS. It takes longer than 2 weeks to put together. Matt Hancock calling them out when he can’t get tests in place for NHS staff is a f@@@@@g cheek!
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) April 2, 2020
This was a view further backed up by Joey Barton. The outspoken Scouser claimed on his Twitter account that it was a deflection tactic from Hancock over his government's mishandling of the whole Coronavirus affair.
Indeed the likes of Hancock himself haven't been offering to take pay cuts, so why should he be shaming others?
The clubs are furloughing non playing staff, not the players
The problem is news stories like Spurs, Norwich, Newcastle and Liverpool furloughing non playing staff, that is the real issue. People are seeing this, and asking what about the players on huge wages?
The general public have every right to be outraged at the taxpayer picking up football's tab. Especially when the
clubs continue to pay players full pay of £70,000 a week, and more.
It's not the players who are furloughing club staff though, it is the people running the clubs who take these decisions.
In defence of the players, they don't run the clubs. That is down to the likes of Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy, or Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United, etc.
Club owners and bosses are letting the players take the blame
Some of the owners of these clubs are also some of the richest people in the world. While the club CEO's are also paid a fortune, so why single out the players?
The club's individual CEOs and owners need to show leadership in this time of crisis, instead they are silent. They are lying low, leaving the players to take all the flak.
Karren Brady is one boss who isn't staying quiet. In her regular newspaper column, she is suggesting players need to take wage cuts in order for clubs to survive.
She has to be correct, surely. But the difference is, Brady is not using the players as scapegoats.
Premier League footballers, the PFA, TV companies, and football in general will soon have to deal with this though. Not just the players.
Money talks - what happens to the TV payments?
As rich as the clubs are, sustaining players wages with no income themselves surely can't be sustainable. What will happen if Sky and BT pull the plug? Will - or how long can - the clubs continue to survive without the TV cash?
There are reports that Canal+ and beIN Sports have decided to suspend payments to Ligue 1 and 2 in France. What happens if Sky and BT do the same in England?
Will Sky and BT pull the plug and potentially risk bankrupting a Premier League club? How long could Sky and BT sustain payments even if they wanted too? These are all questions that will need to be answered in the coming weeks.
It could be the case very soon that players will have no choice but to take pay cuts. Otherwise football as we know it may well be unsustainable.
In the meantime though, maybe it's time to stop blaming the players for football's collective problems.