Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has praised the ‘fantastic’ work done by Marcus Rashford in forcing the government into a U-turn on free school meals, whilst warning of the ‘uncomfortable precedents’ politically active footballers could face going forward.
Manchester United striker Rashford, 22, sent a deeply emotive and personal letter to the government urging them to reconsider extending meals for 1.3 million vulnerable children during the summer holidays.
On Tuesday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced all eligible children will get a £15 voucher in the summer and after Rashford’s campaign achieved change, Masters spoke about his response to an ‘important and heart-moving cause.’
‘I think it’s fantastic,’ Masters said, when asked about Rashford’s campaign, as reported by ESPN. ‘Congratulations to Marcus for his perseverance.
‘The way he has gone about it has clearly moved the government on a really important and heart-moving cause. Some of the criticism [of football] has been unfair. If you look at the way clubs have supported their communities, lots of players and ex-players have been getting involved.
‘Players themselves have stepped up and made their opinions and voices heard on some of the issues that society is facing and I think we can look back on the last three months with some pride in the way football has responded, as an industry, to some of the challenges.’
Rashford’s stance on an issue close to his heart follows a number of footballers speaking out in recent weeks and months about a variety of issues.
Raheem Sterling and Rashford himself have been outspoken on racism issues, particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign, while Jordan Henderson has been a key figure in the #PlayersTogether movement, where Premier League players are raising funds for charities connected to the NHS.
‘We are comfortable, absolutely comfortable, with listening to the players where they have strong opinions and it’s right that they express them,’ Masters said during a Skype interview with reporters. ‘I don’t see them as being overtly political.
‘We are trying to put out unifying messages. I wouldn’t see what is going in terms of the messages being overtly political. I see them as ethics-based, values statements.
‘I don’t have all the answers, but I think we are living in unique times. What we are doing today feels like an appropriate response to where the world finds itself and the Premier League and players’ voices on the issues.
‘Whether it creates uncomfortable precedents going forward, we will wait and see.’