Premier League stars announce charity fund to help health services

Premier League players have launched an initiative to work with NHS Charities Together while the coronavirus crisis continues in the UK.

The charity fund will help key services during the coronavirus crisis.   -  Getty Images

Premier League stars have announced the creation of a charity fund to help health services in the United Kingdom during the coronavirus pandemic.

Players including Liverpool and Manchester United captains Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire confirmed the plans in a social media statement on Wednesday.

The announcement comes after UK health secretary Matt Hancock had urged the highest-paid footballers in the country to "play their part" in helping key services during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Those comments attracted criticism from some in the sport, including United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who said it was unfair to paint players as an easy target while discussions about contributions to health services and charities were ongoing.

The statement said: "Over the course of the last week we, as a group of Premier League players, have held numerous talks together with the vision of creating a contribution fund that can be used to distribute money to where it's needed most in this COVID-19 crisis; helping those fighting for us on the NHS frontline as well as other key areas of need. This is a critical time for our country and for our NHS, and we are determined to help in any way that we can.

"We can confirm that after extensive conversations between a huge number of players from all Premier League clubs we have created our own collective player initiative, #PlayersTogether, and have partnered with NHS Charities Together (NHSCT) in order to assist them in generating and distributing funds quickly and efficiently to where they are needed most.

"NHSCT is the national umbrella organisation for over 150 registered charities, working closely with the Charity Commission, Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS England to represent, champion, and support the NHS' official charities. NHSCT are the official charity partner of the NHS nationally.

"The contributions that this initiative will generate will help NHSCT quickly grant funds to the front line to support in a number of ways, including to help enhance the well-being of NHS staff, volunteers and patients impacted by COVID-19 as well as helping them in their work supporting many other critical areas of need both now and in the longer term.

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"#PlayersTogether is about we, as players, collaborating together to create a voluntary initiative, separate to any other club and league conversations, that can help get much needed funds to those that need it right now. To try and help, along with so many others in the country, make a real difference.

"Our prayers and thoughts go out to everybody affected by this crisis. By sticking together, we will get through this."

Hancock welcomes 'big-hearted decision'

Hancock was swift to acknowledge the gesture after it was confirmed on Wednesday.

He wrote on social media: "Warmly welcome this big-hearted decision from so many Premier League footballers to create #PlayersTogether to support NHS Charities. You are playing your part."

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford explained the players were eager to make sure money made its way to the frontline as the world struggles against the proliferation of the virus.

"For us, we want to help in the best way possible and getting money to the right places is a massive thing," he said to BT Sport.

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"It took a lot of time, a lot of conversations between the players and we came to a decision that this was the best way to do it. The club have supported that, so everyone is happy.

"You can get some backlash if you try to help but don't do it in the best way possible, so we wanted to take our time with the decision, and we did that."

Lineker had previously questioned why other successful members of society were not coming under the same scrutiny as footballers.

And he wrote on Twitter: "Footballers are doing their bit as I was confident they would. Let's hope that others that are in a position to help, those that weren't unfairly targeted, do likewise. Proud of our players."

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