By Alan Baldwin
LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) - Premier League players need to "play their part" and take a pay cut as the country tries to fight the coronavirus pandemic which has led to several non-playing club staff being furloughed, Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday.
Talks between the Premier League and the PFA players union over potential wage cuts or deferrals were continuing after no agreement was reached on Wednesday.
Player wages, with some paid many times more per week than the average Briton takes home in a year, have become a hot topic as club staff are furloughed under a government job retention scheme.
"I think everybody needs to play their part in this national effort and that means Premier League footballers too," Hancock said.
"Given the sacrifices that many people are making including some of my colleagues in the NHS (National Health Service) who have made the ultimate sacrifice of going into work and have caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut."
Julian Knight, the head of a parliamentary committee, said clubs should face a windfall tax unless they tackle the "obscene situation" of players earning fortunes while other employees take pay cuts.
Knight, a member for the ruling Conservative party who chairs the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee, said he had written to finance minister Rishi Sunak urging action.
"We are facing an obscene situation where top players who aren't working are continuing to see hundreds of thousands of pounds roll in each week while the staff who keep the clubs going are losing wages," he said.
"If the Premier League isn't going to act to resolve this crisis then the Government must step in by imposing a significant financial penalty on clubs to reimburse those hit hardest in the pocket."
Professional football in England has been suspended until April 30, at the earliest, due to the pandemic with some top flight clubs putting non-playing staff on leave.
Norwich City said on Thursday their players and management had agreed to donate a percentage of their salaries, amounting to more than 200,000 pounds ($247,280), to help those affected by the virus.
"As a group of players, we wanted to stand up and do our bit," captain Grant Hanley told the club website (www.canaries.co.uk)
"The lads have heard at first-hand stories and challenges that some of our supporters are currently facing. We need to make sure we’re reaching out and helping those who have been hit hard and are struggling at this time."
Senior management at Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove Albion have taken voluntary three month pay cuts to help protect staff jobs.
Others, such as Tottenham Hotspur who imposed a 20% pay cut on 550 non-playing staff on Tuesday, have said they hoped players would end up "doing their bit for the football eco system."
In a separate letter to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, Knight expressed his "strong dismay" and set a Tuesday deadline for the clubs to "do the right thing... or face the consequences".
A windfall tax would help fund payments to non-playing staff or help the grassroots game, added Knight.
The DCMS committee chair said the Premier League should be "role modelling a responsible approach" along the lines of European rivals.
Players at a number of top continental clubs, including Italian and Spanish heavyweights Juventus and Barcelona, have agreed temporary pay cuts.
($1 = 0.8088 pounds)
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, additional reporting by Rohith Nair, editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.