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Gareth McAuley

Current crisis is wake-up call to finally look after our star players in NHS

Gareth McAuley


(Michael Cooper/PA)

(Michael Cooper/PA)

(Michael Cooper/PA)

The advent of the Premier League back in 1992 was a game-changer for top-level professional football in the UK.

With the money accrued by broadcasting and sponsorship rights, clubs were suddenly able to splash the cash on transfer fees and wages, with players becoming wealthy overnight.

Players became major assets while rich foreign buyers were enticed to these shores and were quite happy to throw their money around.

Then when the incredibly lucrative Champions League came to fruition, the trickle-down effect netted clubs in all the major leagues around Europe millions.

It was largely the players who saw the benefits in salaries.

As the key employees at the respective clubs, they were rewarded for the contribution they made on the pitch, and because of the money coming into the clubs, the salaries were off the charts.

It was the same in the USA with American football, baseball, ice hockey and basketball when ground-breaking TV deals were made.

The players were considered key and handsomely looked after.

In terms of the wonderful NHS, it's the amazing nurses, porters, doctors and consultants who are key players every day of the week, but during a crisis such as coronavirus, their roles are magnified in the public consciousness.

I have nothing but admiration for our frontline health workers and the job they do throughout the UK.

But remember, it was only a few months ago that our poor Northern Ireland nurses were on the picket line, having to argue they deserved the same pay as the rest of the UK - and even then it's probably not enough.

So maybe the Covid-19 crisis can be a watershed for our NHS. Maybe the stars on show, who have been thrust into the public sphere, will be paid the salaries they deserve, will get all the equipment they need and will be given the utmost respect.

While applauding every Thursday night is a nice gesture, a few claps don't pay the mortgage or put petrol in the car.

I was pleased to hear Health Minister Matt Hancock state on Thursday he was wiping out the NHS's £13.4billion historical debt, but I want the minister to go further.

Why, as a country, were we in such incredible debt? Why was money scarce when it was required for vital resources?

Maybe one reason is because ridiculous money is being paid to pen pushers and consultants who wouldn't have a clue what to do in a hospital. Ultimately, it's mismanagement.

There is no point wiping out the debt if it going to be built up again through the same mistakes.

I have a friend who is in charge of a health department in England. He was asked to make severe cuts last year. Then suddenly someone who was on £1,000 a day was sent to help him make those necessary cuts, even though he was being paid well to do the job himself.

I've been told that's widespread throughout the country - people are being handed a fortune to come along and help others, who are also on a high salary, do their jobs. That's scandalous and such a waste.

I also know GPs who are on the golf courses at 12.30pm or 1pm, having spent a morning at their practice, even though people in their area can't get appointments. Those doctors are not judged on how many patients they see but on the size of their practice (in terms of patients) - so the bigger, the better.

All this is a real slap in the face to those hard-working nurses and doctors in hospitals who are constantly being told there is no money in the pot and cuts need to be made - and also to those GPs who work around the clock to benefit their communities.

There needs to be a review starting at the very top.

It took the birth of the Premier League for players to be fully appreciated financially. Maybe if there is a positive to come out of coronavirus, it will be that frontline NHS staff, the key players, will finally be paid the money their incredible efforts deserve.

Proud of all charity work

The James McClean apologists were out in force last week following my honest assessment of his ‘home schooling’ social media post.

Apart from the sectarian diatribes aimed in my direction, there were many, graduates of ‘whataboutery’ who claimed I didn’t focus on James’s charity contributions over the years, including this week when he made a donation to the NHS.

So I commend James for his charitable efforts.

I would also like to praise the huge number of professional footballers who give up their time and money to give back to the communities around them — away from the glare of publicity and media attention.

Irish FA have cash stashed way and may have to dig deep to help other clubs

I see Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson was out with his begging bowl this week, looking the Government to cough up a few quid for football clubs in Northern Ireland.

A reasonable request considering football plays such an important role in our society.

Apparently, Patrick hasn’t been getting much change in his discussions with those in power, so he made a public plea.

All very admirable and I hope it works, but if the Government don’t come through with the correct financial package, then I would be looking for the association to provide adequate monetary loans to get clubs over this crisis.

As I’m bored these days, I decided to look up Companies House, the place where businesses and associations like the Irish FA have to file their accounts.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that for 2018 the Irish FA had savings of £3.4million. They haven’t filed 2019 accounts yet. That cash in the bank doesn’t include the money saved by not paying Michael O’Neill’s salary for the last four and half months, or compensation from Stoke City for allowing him to leave his long-term contract.

Of course, in the last 12 months, money has gone missing from Windsor Park, which is now a police and legal matter. It was also revealed that the IFA failed, through their own incompetence, to secure much-needed Sport NI funding.

But the Irish FA, unlike their counterparts in Dublin, are in a fortunate position to have money in reserve. Now I know for the association to thrive, and especially with over 100 staff to think about during this crisis, it is important to have money in the bank just to cover a crisis such as this. A national training centre is still on the cards, but it’s been put off for so long, is anybody going to notice if it is not built in the next 12 months?

The Irish FA is a non-profit organisation, and with Irish League clubs being the lifeblood of football in this country, I feel it is imperative the association does everything in its power to safeguard them financially, even if it means dipping into their own pockets.

Belfast Telegraph