The power struggle over how Premier League footballers can financially assist in the fight against coronavirus is “a disgrace” and has players in a “no-win situation”, says Wayne Rooney.
Players have been urged to do more by health secretary Matt Hancock and the Premier League proposed a 30% pay cut.
The Professional Footballers’ Association says that may harm the NHS.
Derby striker Rooney says he is happy to offer support but asked: “Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats?”
In his Sunday Times column, the 34-year-old ex-England captain added: “For the Premier League to just announce the proposal, as it has done, increases the pressure on players and in my opinion it is now a no-win situation: if players come out and say they can’t agree or are not willing to cut by 30%, even if the real reasons are that it will financially ruin some, it will be presented as ‘Rich Players Refuse Pay Cut’.
“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.”
The Derby player-coach also questioned the timing of the Premier League’s proposed wage cuts when top-flight captains were already in discussions as to how they could set up a fund that would go to a charitable cause, most likely the NHS.
Rooney also said the Premier League’s own contribution of £20m to the NHS was “a drop in the ocean” compared to what players are being asked to give up.
“How the past few days have played out is a disgrace,” added England’s all-time leading goalscorer.
“I get that players are well paid and could give up money. But this should be getting done on a case-by-case basis.
“Clubs should be sitting down with each player and explaining what savings it needs to survive. Players would accept that.
“One player might say, ‘I can afford a 30%’; another might say, ‘I can only afford 5%’.
“Personally, I’d have no problem with some of us paying more. I don’t think that would cause any dressing room problems.
“Whatever way you look at it, we’re easy targets. What gets lost is that half our wages get taken by the taxman. Money that goes to the government, money that is helping the NHS.”
Rooney questioned why “big stars from other sports, who are able to avoid tax by living in places like Monaco” are not being scrutinised over the financial support they are offering in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
He also criticised health secretary Hancock focusing on footballers and believes big clubs do not need players to take cuts in order to survive, adding if they did then “football is in a far worse position than any of us imagined”.