I almost forgot to mention the other thing that really got my goat up with the Minister for Health’s pronouncements this week. Basically we all wanted his answers to two key questions:
- when will the NHS staff in all positions of the service get their essential personal protective equipment?
- when will we have sufficient stocks of testing equipment available firstly to carry out essential tests on all NHS staff and then on the general public to meet and if possible exceed the target of 100,000 per day?
and as I’ve made clear in the earlier posting he couldn’t give any clear reassurances on either. But to deflect attention he then proceeded to play to the public gallery and vilified footballers for not accepting substantial pay cuts at this difficult time, when many people are being laid off etc. It’s such an easy target and I thought it was a really cheap shot.
Why? Well we all know footballers earn ridiculous amounts of money but they aren’t alone Minister. Why not have a pop at Sir Elton and Sir Mick and their like? And what about film stars and tv personalities? And what about the real big business earners like Sir Richard Branson who is already asking for a public handout for his stricken airline and John Caldwell who recently spent £150m creating a London home? But hey let’s not stop there. You must earn close on £200,000 pa as a Government Minister and if you add in expenses and grace and favour homes, your parliamentary income as a Minister must get close to £1m pa. Not bad eh? And how much of a pay cut have you volunteered for? And what about your Tory colleague and hedge fund entrepreneur Jacob Rees-Mogg who is thought to have a personal fortune of £150m. Far more than any footballer I’m aware of. Why not challenge him on the morality of his earnings?
Nah you don’t because that’s too challenging and footballers are fair game. Of course I appreciate that some footballers can act like irresponsible children at times. And I do think some of the recent actions of senior people in the game like the Spurs Chairman have been terribly ill-judged whilst the PFA, the footballers’ trade association, always seem to behave as if they operate in a social vacuum. They never gauge popular opinion correctly. But many footballers and individual clubs have been acting with considerable dignity I believe. As we all know Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have made their hotels available for the exclusive us of NHS staff and kept their staff on to support them at this time. Brighton FC have pledged 1000 tickets free to NHS staff once games recommence and today I’ve heard that Plymouth Athletic are making their premises available to the NHS to set up a testing clinic etc. As to footballers, well the guys at my club Man Utd have pledged a 30% pay cut (without any prompting from Matt Hancock) to enable something like £7m to be re-directed to much-needed health care in the Manchester area. And Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has simultaneously been the driving force behind a Premier league coronavirus crisis player fund that will also re-direct substantial player earnings to the NHS. Managers and senior staff at Bournemouth, Brighton and numerous other clubs have already agreed to significant pay cuts and many more people in the game are following suit. Today there are announcements expected from the Premier League confirming that substantial financial support will be offered to clubs lower down the football pyramid to help them survive in their communities as well as to the NHS too.
Now I know it’s easy to say that they can all afford it. But all these actions were in hand before Hancock’s barbs and at least they are doing something meaningful and positive whilst their core business has been shut down like many others. Interestingly the papers are full of full page ads from the Chief Executives of all the major retailers saying what they are doing to support the nation during the crisis. Which is all very commendable but they are all enjoying a huge uplift in their businesses because of shoppers’ habits because of the virus. Nobody draws attention to their profit uplift and whether that could be re-allocated do they?
And the Government meanwhile is spending £100m’s on tv, radio and press advertising telling us to stay in. And that letter that Boris sent to every household (apart from ours it seems) telling us exactly the same thing, is said to have cost some £75m in itself. I think all responsible people have got the message but the spend seems to be accelerating. So before you start demonising footballers Mr Hancock maybe you could also look in the mirror and ask yourself whether some of those many £millions could and should have been spent purchasing much-needed equipment? How many sad deaths will have happened because you failed to act quickly?
So don’t go preaching to us about the moral shortfall in others please Mr Hancock. Because, as someone once said, blame is a poor out for those who don’t reach desired destinations.