Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has told players at the Premier League’s top clubs to ignore pressure to take pay cuts during the coronavirus crisis.
English football has been halted since mid-March in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 and clubs at all levels are feeling the pinch.
Premier League chiefs, due to meet with clubs next week, are committed to finishing the season but there is no indication of when it will resume.
Britain, on lockdown until May 7 at the earliest, has been one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 18,000 hospital deaths.
Earlier this month, top-flight clubs agreed to consult with their players over deferrals and reductions amounting to 30 percent of their salary but only a handful of clubs.
Only Arsenal have so far agreed a 12.5 percent cut in wages, while Southampton, West Ham, Sheffield United and Watford players are to defer a part of their salary.
Roy Keane, the former Ireland assistant manager, acknowledged the pressure on players to take a pay cut but said he would not do so if placed in a similar position.
“The way I look at it now, particularly after the way I left Manchester United, I wouldn’t take a pay cut from anybody if I was at one of the bigger clubs,” he told Sky Sports.
“I know there is pressure on players, but it is nobody’s business what you do with your wages.”
Keane believes more pressure should be put on the billionaire club owners to honour their wage bills than on players.
“If they want to stick to their guns and say they want their full wages when you’ve got a billionaire in the background, do it,” added Keane.
“Don’t be swayed by some sort of pressure from the media, who write lies anyway about certain players.”
There is a general acceptance among Premier League clubs that matches will be played behind closed doors if the competition can resume, with restrictions on mass gatherings likely to remain in force for the foreseeable future.
The Premier League said a number of complex scenarios were being worked through, with fears that failure to finish the season could cost it more than £1 billion ($1.2 billion).
– Neville plea –
Keane’s former United teammate, Gary Neville, said the Premier League should borrow against future television earnings to safeguard English football’s financial survival.
“The future revenues are into the tens of billions in the Premier League and more if they wanted to extend their TV contracts,” said Neville, also the co-owner of League Two Salford City.
“The idea of basically borrowing at this time 300 or 400 million, 500 million pounds, which is more than an affordable number, doing a soft deal with a bank on a loan to give the FA (Football Association), the EFL (English Football League), the players, whoever it is — the National League need 15 million.
“I’ve gone from opportunity to despair to almost now pleading with somebody at the Premier League just to do the right thing for the game.”
“There are 20 league clubs,” he said on Sky. “They have to do it. The Premier League and the clubs are the only people who can stop this becoming absolute carnage economically and saves the fans at lower levels.”
Gary Hoffman has been appointed as the new chairman of the Premier League. He will succeed interim appointment Claudia Arney on June 1.