Even the government's health secretary said they should "play their part".
Sport has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown in the UK. The most popular and most profitable sport, football, has had its season called off and its matches banned. That leaves its leagues with no way to make money and its players and other staff with no work to do.
Some clubs, including Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspurs, have therefore decided to take advantage of a government scheme to pay 80 percent of the wages of staff put on furlough (up to £2,500 a month). The staff they’ve laid off, however, are non-playing staff. The actual footballers are still being paid their full wages.
This has caused a lot of controversy. Top-league footballers are incredibly well-paid (the average wage of Premier League players is £3 million a year, 100x the average UK salary). So people don’t think it's fair that (a) players get to keep their full wage while lower-paid staff have to take a pay cut, and (b) that taxpayers are now paying the wages of furloughed football staff when the money could instead come from the players.
Some footballers say the anger directed at them is unfair and it is the clubs, not them, who should be held responsible for trying to bilk the taxpayer. Their union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, says cutting footballer wages will disadvantage lower-league players (who aren’t paid as well), deprive the government of hundreds of millions of pounds in income taxes, and ignore the fact that the clubs are choosing not to pay their staffs salaries despite having the means to do so.
It is true that many top-league clubs are very profitable: Tottenham made a post-tax profit of £89.6 million last year. But it’s also true that wages are a significant part of their costs (59 percent of the Premier League's collective spending) and that without being able to sell match tickets and broadcasting rights all the clubs are going to see a big drop in revenue this year. While the argument drags on, Britons as a whole seem to be turning against footballers. More than nine in ten say Premier League players should take a pay cut, and two-thirds of them say they should give up at least half of their salary.
So how do we get what we need to live? Our livelihoods are our own personal answer to that question, whether it be job in a factory, setting up a start-up, or taking time out to travel. But the economy we live in affects the choices we have in setting up our livelihoods, and we rely on so many other workers around us to be able to do what we do… how do we get the balance right?