Manchester City soccer star Kevin De Bruyne, along with several other player reps, have turned down a 30% pay cut. Credit: Premiership.

Soccer’s English Premiership stars, who get paid millions of pounds to kick a ball around, refused to take a 30% pay cut from owners, saying: “We’d rather give our cash to the NHS than help out our rich owners.”

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Watford captain Troy Deeney and West Ham skipper Mark Noble led the fightback in a video conference that served only to deepen divisions, and perhaps launch a civil war in the beautiful game, UK’s The Sun, reported.

Premier League chiefs and club executives thought the players were ready to buy into their proposal for a wage cut or deferral of up to 30% designed to stave off financial meltdown caused by the coronavirus crisis, the report said.

And the PFA (Professional Footballers Association) supported the hardline stance with a strong statement that hit back at criticism of players from politicians, the report said.

The players’ union claimed such a big cut in stars’ wages would actually damage the public services that were fighting the pandemic.

The PFA said: “The proposed 30 per cent salary deduction over a 12-month period equates to over £500million in wage reductions and a loss in tax contributions of over £200m to the government.

“What effect does this loss of earning to the government mean to the NHS (National Health Service)? Was this considered in the Premier League proposal and did the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, factor this in when asking players to take a salary cut?”

It was somehow quaint that the meeting kicked off at 3 pm on a Saturday.

Fewer and fewer games start at the traditional time because of demands by the broadcasters whose cash has turned English football into a multi- billion pound business, the report said.

And when the richest league in the world went cap in hand to its star performers asking for help, they did not receive the hoped-for response, the report said.

The players, who often drive Ferraris, Bentley’s and Maseratis, apparently are averse to lightening the load for “rich owners.”

More than 60 people are believed to have taken part in the meeting — at least one player from each of the 20 top-flight clubs, plus managers, executives and leading figures, the report said.

They were told that, in the worst case scenario of the 2019-20 season not resuming, the overall cost to clubs would be more than £1billion in lost TV rights payments, matchday revenue and sponsorship income, the report said.

Player wages account for about 60% of total Premiership income.

But those individual players were having none of it. De Bruyne, Deeney and Noble all spoke from the “floor.”

One star is understood to have said: “All the clubs are owned by rich people — why do we have to do anything for them?”

Why indeed. Why help anyone? It’s only a global pandemic.

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