Wayne Rooney has told the Times that the public pressure on footballers to accept a pay cut during the coronavirus crisis is a "disgrace."
Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that Premier League players need to take a pay cut and "play their part" during the pandemic.
His comments came as players face intense public pressure to accept pay deferrals in the wake of Tottenham and Newcastle furloughing non-playing staff, at the same time as maintaining player wages at their usual level. Liverpool have also been criticised for furloughing non-playing staff, while thethe union representing Premier League footballers has questioned the league's call for a 30% player wage reduction.
England and Manchester United's all-time leading goal scorer Rooney wrote in the Times: "How the past few days have played out is a disgrace. First the health secretary, Matt Hancock, in his daily update on coronavirus, said that Premier League players should take a pay cut. He was supposed to be giving the nation the latest on the biggest crisis we've faced in our lifetimes. Why was the pay of footballers even in his head? Was he desperate to divert attention from his government's handling of this pandemic?
"The Premier League then announced it was looking for its players to give up or defer wages by 30%. This despite owners and the Premier League board knowing players were already deep in discussion about what their contribution should be. It seemed strange to me because every other decision in this process has been kept behind closed doors, but this had to be announced publicly. Why? It feels as if it's to shame the players -- to force them into a corner where they have to pick up the bill for lost revenue."
There has so far been no universal agreement regarding wage reductions for players in England. Rooney, who plays for Derby County in England's second tier, said he feels he needs to speak up regarding the debate around who earns what.