Julian Knight, chair of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has come under fire from leading football presenters after renewing his attack on the sport.
In response to an article regarding the 10-figure financial loss that Premier League clubs will experience as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Knight claimed that the figure was nothing compared to what charities are expecting to lose.
Accounting firm Deloitte published a report that says the combined loss of revenue across clubs in the English top flight will end up costing around £1bn by the end of the season, due to the absence of fans in stadia when the campaign resumes next Wednesday and the absence of other important revenue streams.
Knight, the current MP for Solihull, quoted the story on Twitter and added: “To put into context, charities, which help millions of people, face a shortfall of £4bn.”
Knight has previously attacked Premier League footballers for not doing enough to support the NHS at the start of the coronavirus crisis and called on them to give their wages to non-playing staff at clubs who were at risk of being placed on furlough, despite a number of players already donating large sums of money to similar causes.
The Premier League footballers’ Players Together fund has already donated millions to NHS causes, while players such as Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, Liverpool defender Andy Robertson and Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha are just a handful of names who have taken further measures into their own hands to help those in more vulnerable situations – players from every single Premier League club are known to have made private donations or launched charitable programmes.
The Premier League clubs also contributed £2.3bn towards the government through taxes in 2018/19, a fact that Knight failed to mention.
As a result, a stern defence was issued to Knight following his latest comments from those who have seen how Premier League players have been finding ways to help.
Sky Sports presenter Kelly Cates responded by raising Rashford’s efforts to help others, and criticised the government for failing to look after the vulnerable due to welfare cuts that means footballers are being needed to bail them out.
“To put into context, a footballer @MarcusRashford is helping to feed vulnerable children over the summer that your government won’t,” Cates wrote to Knight.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker echoed her message, with the former Tottenham and England striker adding: “To put into context, there are around 160,000 charities in the UK and 20 Premier League clubs, which also help millions of people.”
Knight has consistently been critical of the Premier League’s contribution during the coronavirus pandemic since becoming DCMS chair, which has caused critics to highlight what he himself has contributed. He has regularly been in opposition to paying higher benefits to those unable to work due to disability or illness, and was also in favour for reducing the spending on welfare benefits.
Knight also voted against higher taxes for banks, and has written guides on how to avoid paying tax. He has also voted against climate change measures on more than one occasion.
In contrast, Rashford has launched a campaign with a national network of charitable food distributors, Fairshare, to provide meals for children who depended on school dinners. More than £20m has been raised, resulting in more than three million means being distributed each week to those at risk of going hungry.
The England striker has also helped to distribute hundreds of food packages at homeless shelters since Christmas, and in February took it upon himself to learn sign language so that he could judge a poetry contest for deaf children, for which he has promised to hand out the awards in person once lockdown restrictions are ended.