PREMIER LEAGUE players are refusing to bail out their clubs as English football heads towards civil war.
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Watford captain Troy Deeney and West Ham skipper Mark Noble led the fightback in a video conference that served only to deepen divisions in the game.
Premier League chiefs and club executives thought the players were ready to buy into their proposal for a wage cut or deferral of up to 30 per cent designed to stave off financial meltdown caused by the coronavirus crisis.
But the message they got back was: ‘We’d rather give our cash to the NHS than help out our rich owners’.
And the PFA supported the hardline stance with a strong statement that hit back at criticism of players from politicians.
The players’ union claimed such a big cut in stars’ wages would actually damage the public services that were fighting the pandemic.
The PFA said: “The proposed 30 per cent salary deduction over a 12-month period equates to over £500million in wage reductions and a loss in tax contributions of over £200m to the Government.
“What effect does this loss of earning to the Government mean to the NHS? Was this considered in the Premier League proposal and did the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, factor this in when asking players to take a salary cut?”
It was somehow quaint that the meeting kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday.
Fewer and fewer games start at the traditional time because of demands by the broadcasters whose cash has turned English football into a multi- billion pound business.
And when the richest league in the world went cap in hand to its star performers asking for help, they did not receive the hoped-for response.
More than 60 people are believed to have taken part in the meeting — at least one player from each of the 20 top-flight clubs, plus managers, executives and leading figures from the Prem.
They were told that, in the worst case scenario of the 2019-20 season not resuming, the overall cost to clubs would be more than £1billion in lost TV rights payments, matchday revenue and sponsorship income.
Player wages account for about 60 per cent of total Prem income.
But those individual players were having none of it. De Bruyne, Deeney and Noble all spoke from the “floor”.
One star is understood to have said: “All the clubs are owned by rich people — why do we have to do anything for them?”
Another player told SunSport: “The players want to help and many are doing things themselves already, privately.
“They understand the gravity of the situation completely but also want to make sure they are helping the right people.”
But one club chief said: “The players are sticking together and just mouthing PFA standpoints. It was as if they were reading from a script written by Gordon Taylor.”
Players wanted to be sure the proceeds of any wage cut would guarantee staff at their clubs receive 100 per cent of their wages, support EFL and non-league clubs, and help fund “the real heroes” of the NHS.