Matt Hancock demands Premier League stars do their bit over coronavirus and 'take a pay cut'

MATT Hancock has demanded Premier League stars do their bit over coronavirus and "take a pay cut".

Several clubs are making staff take massive pay cuts, but refusing to cut the multi-million pound salaries of their players during the crisis.

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This includes a host of top clubs such as Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich .

Speaking this evening, the Health Secretary warned football clubs everyone needs to do their bit in the battle against the virus.

He said: "That means Premier League footballers too.

"The first thing they can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part".

His comments come as the powerful Commons Culture committee blasted clubs for living in a “moral vacuum” by taking advantage of the Government’s taxpayer-funded job retention scheme.

The clubs have placed a number of their non-playing staff on leave, meaning 80 per cent of their wages will be paid by the taxpayer, while so far continuing to pay their players their full multi-million pound salaries in what has been described a ‘two-tier’ system.

The Government scheme is designed to persuade employers not to lay off their staff during the shutdown and to keep workers attached to their place of work so they can restart immediately after the restrictions are lifted.

The state will cover 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed staff during the lockdown period – up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

Newcastle was the first Premier League club to announce it would take advantage of the job retention scheme, placing all of its non-playing and coaching staff on leave.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, who earns around £3 million a year, also announced that the club’s 550 non-playing employees will see their wages cut after saying he will be applying for the Government's furlough scheme.

In contrast to the Premier League, players at Championship club Leeds United have already volunteered to take a wage deferral while Birmingham City players who earn more than £6,000 have been asked to take a 50 per cent pay cut for the next four months.

And in Spain, Barcelona players have agreed a 70 per cent pay cut while in Italy Juventus players and manager Maurizio Sarri have had their pay frozen for four.

Culture committee boss Julian Knight has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to propose imposing a levy on Premier League clubs that have not cut their players’ salaries by April 7.

Mr Knight wrote: “The purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not to support the economics of Premier League clubs, who should play their part in dealing with this crisis and set a good example.

“Lessons should be learnt from European clubs including Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona where players have all agreed to take pay reductions If PL clubs insist on maintaining this current two-tier strategy, they should face sanctions.

"It sticks in the throat. This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the moral vacuum at its centre."

Mr Hancock's comments came as he pledged to test 100,000 Brits a day for coronavirus after the shambles of recent days – but it won’t be for weeks to come.

As the Health Secretary’s voice croaked after he came back from fighting the virus himself, he revealed a new plan to tackle the deadly bug with a huge ramping up of tests.

Another 569 people were confirmed to have died of Covid-19 this afternoon – taking the UK total to more than 2,900.

His five point plan to get to 100,000 tests a day by the end of April included:

  1. A vow to carry out 25,000 swab tests a day in NHS hospitals and PHE labs to test patients for Covid-19, by the end of April – up from 10k a day now
  2. Creation of new swab testing capacity with help of commercial partners including Amazon, Boots and universities in new labs and testing sites for NHS staff and their families
  3. ‘Game-changing’ antibody tests to tell if people have had coronavirus, and are immune to it. Finger-prick blood test takes as little as 20 minutes, and Government is working with nine companies to test whether they work. But could take up to 28 days to show best results
  4. Virus surveillance, using the antibody test to understand the rate of infection and how the virus is spreading across the UK. Key to helping us exit the crisis.
  5. Build the British diagnostic industry “at scale” – with the pharmaceutical industry, including major drugs firms Astra Zeneca and GSK

All NHS staff will be able to have a test by the end of the month, he promised.

“That is the goal and I’m determined were going to get there,” Mr Hancock insisted.

Mr Hancock gave a "shout out" to all the health and care staff and the hard work they have been doing to save lives – hailing the Clap For Carers which took place last Thursday – backed by The Sun.

He added: "I think so many of us felt so emotional when that happened last week and the whole country responded like it did.

"I know it's something The Sun has been leading the charge on and I pay tribute to your work in making sure that every single health and social worker across the NHS and across social care and other public servants know they are valued for the work they are doing, sometimes very dangerous work, to tackle this virus."

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