Watford legend John Barnes has urged restraint for the return of the Premier League and said footballers should only return to work when the rest of society does. The former England international said it is not a good idea for thousands of tests to be used to ensure footballers are free from the virus, when those viruses could be better used elsewhere.
John Barnes said: “It’s not a good idea for the Premier League to use up thousands of coronavirus tests, especially if it would mean taking tests away from people who need it more. The question is, if the tests didn’t go to the players, would they actually be used for other people in need?”
The discussion around footballers’ contributions to the NHS has been divisive over the past few weeks with Health Secretary Matt Hancock singling them out because of the high wages some of them earn. However, Barnes defended footballers’ earnings and said their tax contributions benefits the country significantly before adding that sport should not be rushed back just because people are fond of it.
John Barnes said “For example, when people say, ‘players shouldn’t be getting paid the wages that they do as there are more important jobs out there, like being a doctor’. At the end of the day, it makes no difference, as doctors would not be getting paid a wage of a footballer anyway. Footballers paying the tax they do allows for growth and development in this country. My biggest thing is that football can’t be above general society, and realistically it should not return until people can go back to work. Football can’t be an exception just because people like it, as it is not more important for footballers to go back to work and get paid than anybody else. Football should be a part of society and should return only once society has gone back to work.”
When asked about the possibility of matches being played behind closed doors, Barnes said the opinions of footballers on the subject was irrelevant. Instead of it being about how footballers feel, he said it is more important for them to do what is right and to be told what to do.
John Barnes said “You have to look at the situation (playing behind closed doors) as a person in society, not just in the football environment so all football players will think differently with this situation.Not all footballers are thinking that they want to stay at home with their families, and not all of them are thinking that they just want to get to on with it. Footballers are no different to everyone else in life. What’s important is not how they feel, but it is more of what the right thing for them to do is. In this situation with everything, people shouldn’t be asked what they want to do as people will think it is okay to go to the pub, go to a restaurant etc. Footballers, like people, should be told what to do and when they can do it. There is no guarantee that no one in football will ever not get coronavirus so we have to do what we are told by the government and scientists.”