“I think it’s outrageous that the campaign’s fundraising style has bordered on blackmail, with the message being basically ‘give us your money or we'll publicly shame you’,” said Southgate. “It’s a strange way for a charity to act and one that has ensured that, although I had originally intended to make a donation, I have now withdrawn that promise.”
But a spokesman for campaigner Noreena Hertz, who runs the fund, said Hertz was shocked by Southgate’s comments, which were “unfounded and disgraceful”. He added that Hertz had met Southgate to explain the nature of the campaign and that she was baffled by his comments, which implied that “you can’t use people in the public eye to raise awareness of issues”.
Earlier this week it was revealed that of the £750,000 pledged by Premiership players to the campaign earlier this year, only £200,000 had been collected. A total of 255 players made pledges to the campaign. The clubs with the most players making donations were Fulham (28), Watford (28) and Reading (27).
No Chelsea or Middlesbrough players agreed to pledge cash. Two from Manchester United and three from Arsenal agreed to make donations.
A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing, which administers the May Day for Nurses fund, said: “The RCN is extremely grateful to those footballers who have donated money to the May Day for Nurses’ fund for nurses in hardship – we recognise that footballers do a huge amount for charity day in, day out, and would never criticise players who choose to support different causes.”