Singling out footballers for criticism during this pandemic is unfair

I don’t understand the fascination in player salaries. What a professional footballer earns at his club is nothing to do with me or the wider public.

When I played I had no idea where I was positioned earnings wise in comparison to players at my club or other clubs for that matter and it didn’t interest me.

I always pushed my employer for more money in negotiations but then again who wouldn’t? For me the competition was about winning games on the pitch, not being able to earn more money than other players.

I don’t think players today are that different. There might be a lot more money in the game than there was during my day, but that doesn’t mean they are only motivated by money.

Market forces dictate how much they get paid. People are entitled to believe that nurses or doctors deserve more than professional footballers but the reality is that everyone wants to get the best deal they can from their employer, and market forces dictate that footballers can get a lot more than people in most other professions.

So why have high earning elite Premier League players come in for so much negative press with the COVID-19 virus shutting down so much of the world? For me it’s because they are always under so much public scrutiny that they are always going to get more attention than just about anyone else.

They are expected to be role models and the media absolutely relish the opportunity to point out any examples of bad behaviour. But no two players are the same, and expecting every single football player to sign up to the same terms for a wage reduction is not realistic.

It’s not right to tag all the 600 or so Premier League players into the same category. They are all at different stages of their careers, on different salaries and at different ages and some of them are already being extremely generous in supporting charitable projects, often in less affluent countries.

Should a player who is already giving 30 per cent of his salary to charitable causes be expected to take the same wage cut as a player who isn’t? There are so many variables like this that telling any group within society what they need to do regards a signed and agreed contract is not appropriate.

Decision making at the highest level of football has been dictated by greed and self interest for so long that there is a huge amount of distrust among the general public. That isn’t the players fault though, and it would be wrong for attention to be focused on the people on the pitch instead of the clubs, associations and governing bodies.

It would be understandable if players were greedy, not that I think this is necessarily the case. They have a very limited window of opportunity in which to make big money and all it takes is one bad injury for a player coming towards the end of a contract and the opportunity can disappear in an instant.

Clubs have more stability, although we’ve seen in recent years that they can come and go too. But institutions like the Premier League, UEFA and FIFA are making millions, if not billions, every year without any of the pressure, expectation and risk that is part and parcel of daily life for your average footballer.

I really like the #PlayersTogether initiative which further enhances a lot of great work players do that never gets reported. These are unprecedented circumstances and everyone needs to do what they can to help society recover and hopefully return to normal once this pandemic is over.

But the focus on footballers is unfair and unhelpful. These are young men who don’t generally come from wealthy backgrounds and have had to work very hard in an industry which is incredibly unpredictable and uncertain.

Everyone needs to help out in whatever way they can. But footballers should not be expected to make greater sacrifices then bankers, lawyers, politicians or financially successful people from other walks of life.