On April 3 (yes that does feel like a long time ago), we retweeted a tweet by former Deputy Editor of The Guardian, Paul Johnson. It gave a list of the UK’s richest men, Philip Green, Richard Branson and Joe Lewis and how much they are worth. This came in light of the news that all three had applied to the government for taxpayer money in order to bailout their businesses in light of Covid-19.


Not long before this, during a Government address, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that Premier League footballers in particular should step up:

‘Given the sacrifices many people are making, the first thing PL footballers can do is make a contribution … take a pay cut and play their part’.

In all likelihood these comments could have been levelled on the basis that high-ranking British national/based racing personalities Alexander Simms, Josh Webster, Carlos Sainz (McLaren F1 driver), Lando Norris and Ron Dennis had all either taken pay cuts or set up schemes to help the effort.

Since neither Green, Branson or Lewis showed a preparedness to take pay cuts or part with any of their personal funds in order to help their own businesses or their communities, the Premier League establishment became riled. In response there were statements from the likes of Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, manager Sam Allardyce and former England striker Wayne Rooney.

But is there a justified reason for why celebrities receive this extra pressure? We think there is. And it comes down to a simple question of perception.

Footballers and other sportsmen and women have more pressure on them because, more so than politicians or businessmen, they are public influencers. Philip Green saying ‘#StayHome’ will have less of an impact than if the same message came from Giroud or Sterling.

Politicians such as Rees Mogg enjoy and are protected by a different level of perception as they are in jobs of infrastructure rather than jobs of pleasure. Joe public is less likely to attack the likes of him, Branson and Green because they do jobs that are necessary for a country or the economy to run smoothly, so the public puts less pressure on them than they do on a sports personality who’s worth a tenth of what they are worth.

But the impact of Covid-19 has worsened significantly since April 3. Has the approach of these three titans changed?

For one of them at least, it has.

The Hackney Gazette recently reported that Joe Lewis had overturned Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to furlough its staff.

Green? Well his Arcadia empire is attempting to borrow £50 million pounds and still gain access to taxpayer’s money to bail it out.

Branson, currently in residence on his Caribbean Island, has been less successful; receiving criticism from campaigners and politicians after he asked for a £500 million pound bailout.

‘Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia …’

A bit like that sentence from Orwell’s 1984, it seems some things will never change even with Covid-19 in our lives.