Footballers unfairly ‘on target’ during lockdown

Footballers lockdown Chris Tavner

Politicians must be delighted.  They are increasingly facing a backlash as they endure questions about the lack of PPE and testing to combat the Coronavirus crisis.

But now they have an enemy they can use to distract away from their own shortcomings – footballers.

For the most part, this crisis has shown within society our resilience and sense of community at its best.  We look out for each other, setting up community action groups.  Offering to get shopping and vital supplies for older and vulnerable neighbours.

Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of times neighbours have offered to help us, even though we are fit and healthy.  It’s people saying they are there if needed, because you never know when the virus might hit.

Offers have been posted in WhatsApp groups, Facebook messenger, and we have even had notes physically posted through our door offering help if needed.

Not just that, but we also have the inspiring ‘clap for carers’ every Thursday at 8pm in the UK, where we clap for everyone working in and around the NHS.  Many of the windows on our street are decorated with rainbow posters, made by children, thanking carers for their work, and urging their neighbours to stay inside!

Footballers and the blame game

But it doesn’t mean togetherness and solidarity is always present.  There have also been examples of racism, and other groups being attacked.

Trump still insists on calling Coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’, spreading blame on Chinese people.  This has an impact, and there have been various reports of Chinese people facing hostility and bigotry in the streets.

At times, there are also examples of neighbours turning on each other.  I know form my own street at least a couple of examples of neighbours obviously having parties, involving people who clearly they do not live with.  This is dangerous and selfish.

However, there are also key workers who still must go to work each day, facing abuse from neighbours for leaving their house.  Yes, we are being told to stay in, but is it really that hard for people to understand that some of their neighbours have good reasons for leaving their home?

Bizarrely though, footballers are also being criticised.

Furloughing staff

The core of why people are annoyed is because several Premier League clubs have applied to use the government schemes available to furlough staff.  This is where the government will pay up to 80% of salaries of staff where it is deemed not appropriate that they undertake work.

People get annoyed because these are huge businesses, making millions, so why should they take advantage of a scheme that, ultimately, will be paid for by the tax payer?

Then it goes further, and people ask why well paid footballers have not taken pay cuts instead of administrative staff having to be furloughed.

The curse of the Beckhams

Footballers often get the brunt of attacks against the perceived rich and privileged.  Don’t get me wrong, many footballers are very handsomely paid, with a number now millionaires.

But why do footballers seem to get it more than others who are rich?

It’s not just with Coronavirus.  When there were debates about putting caps on Child Tax Credit in the UK, footballers were brought up.  The argument was that all parents got the same level of tax credit, as it was understood, that societally, bringing up children meant an additional financial burden.

The standard argument for capping it was always “yes, but why should David and Victoria Beckham get child tax credits?”

First, what did the Beckham’s do so wrong to be the number one target?  Sure, I don’t own any of Victoria Beckham’s back catalogue, and I’m not one to wear a sarong, but what else?

Regarding child tax credits of course, the argument was that it was simpler to give it to everyone, avoiding extra costs in administration that a cap would entail.  And more importantly, higher earners would more than pay it back through progressive taxation.  Which the Beckhams would have done for sure.

No, the real problem was that footballers come from working class backgrounds and dare to have wealth.

Breaking society’s rules

That’s the core of the problem, why they face so much ridicule.  We rarely think of the those who were born into wealth, because they are following the rules.

A minority hold the majority of wealth, and a societal culture is built around that.  They have big houses, holiday at luxurious hotels, are members of exclusive clubs.  They dress, act and behave in accordance to these rules.

Footballers though do not come from wealth.  From a relatively young age they are propelled from council estates into millionaires, with the culture shock akin in similarity to a lottery win.

They do not follow the rules.  They have lost of ‘flashy cars’, have big parties, and hang out with celebrities.  Most importantly, they don’t do this with subtlety.  They flaunt it online, their Instagram accounts like a self-made documentary by MTV or E! television.

This is because working class lads use social media, and dream of owning the things denied to them (as they are denied to all of us).  The apparent trappings of wealth.

But do they deserve this additional ridicule?  At least they know what’s it’s like to live in a household with a lower or average income


It may not seem right that huge businesses like Premier League clubs are using government schemes to furlough staff.  But what about other big businesses and how they are behaving?  We don’t even see them, let alone have the forethought to criticise them.

We all no doubt know people who have been furloughed without wanting to, and worse – people losing their jobs.  I spoke to one neighbour who is now working from home.  Fine, but to do that the company have insisted she takes a pay cut.  Does that mean she works less hours at least?  No, they insist she does her full contracted hours.  This is disgusting.  If ever there’s a time to join a Union folks, this is it.

For every company that seems to make good ethical choices for their customers and their staff, there are many more who continue to milk the system for what it’s worth.

They need to be held to account.  At least Premier League clubs will lose income from not being able to sell tickets to games. Some of these companies could definitely take the hit.  But that’s eating into their profits, and they won’t allow it.

It’s how the system is built – you need to maximise your profits at all costs otherwise a competitor will swallow you up.  Competition rules.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be distracted.  Divide and rule is what the rich use to their advantage all the time.  It is up to us to see through that.