Premier League footballers should "take a pay cut and play their part" during the coronavirus pandemic, says health secretary Matt Hancock.
Some clubs have furloughed non-playing staff but not looked at players' wages.
"Given the sacrifices many people are making, the first thing PL footballers can do is make a contribution," he said at the daily government briefing.
The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said "players will have to share the financial burden".
In a statement, the PFA added: "We are aware of the public sentiment that the players should pay non-playing staff's salaries. However, our current position is that - as businesses - if clubs can afford to pay their players and staff, they should.
"The players we have spoken to recognise that the non-playing staff are a vital part of their club and they do not want to see club staff furloughed unfairly.
"Any use of the government's support schemes without genuine financial need is detrimental to the wider society.
"In instances where clubs have the resources to pay all staff, the benefit of players paying non-playing staff salaries will only serve the business of the club's shareholders."
Hancock's comments came on a day when the number of UK deaths from coronavirus rose to 2,921 and followed those made by Conservative colleague Julian Knight, who is chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
Knight has written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters calling for action on player wages, saying clubs which furlough non-playing staff but do not impose cuts on player wages should be subjected to a windfall tax if they do not change approach by Tuesday, 7 April.
"The purpose of the coronavirus job retention scheme is not to support the economics of Premier League clubs," Knight wrote.
The PFA statement added: "We fully accept that players will have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the Covid-19 outbreak in order to secure the long-term future of their own club and indeed the wider game.
"Our advice going out to players at this point reflects that expectation."
Players, coaches and executive staff at Norwich have donated £200,000, made up of a percentage of their salaries, to help local people affected by the pandemic.
Players at Championship leaders Leeds United have already volunteered to take a wage deferral, while Birmingham City players who earn more than £6,000 a week have been asked to take a 50% cut for the next four months.
In Europe, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid players have taken a 70% pay cut, while Juventus players and manager Maurizio Sarri have agreed to freeze their pay for four months.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe became the first Premier League boss to take a voluntary pay cut during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber, technical director Dan Ashworth and head coach Graham Potter have each taken a "significant" voluntary pay cut but no decision has been taken on whether to furlough any of the club's staff.
BBC sports editor Dan Roan
Some will no doubt view politicians' criticism of highly-paid footballers as a convenient deflection tactic at a time of intensifying scrutiny on the government's handling of a national crisis.
No players have so far objected to contributing some of their wealth to help their clubs at a time when their finances are in peril. But there is now a perception that the PFA has been too slow to agree action, and by failing to take the initiative have ensured a PR disaster for their members, especially after several clubs furloughed non-playing staff.
The PFA needs to look after the interests of less well paid players in Leagues One and Two of course. But it has not gone unnoticed that negotiations are being led by chief executive Gordon Taylor, who promised to stand down from his £2m per year role more than a year ago, but remains in power.
The union has been holding out for a collective wage deferral and has finally broken its silence to explain its position, with some thinly-veiled digs at some clubs in its statement.
But during talks with the Premier League over the past two days it has been made very clear to the PFA that an actual pay cut is required, with clubs deprived of matchday revenue and worried that TV rights-holders will start demanding hundreds of million of pounds worth of refunds.
I understand any cut would not be as high as the 70% reduction seen at clubs like Barcelona, but that now seems to be the direction of travel with an agreement anticipated on Friday. For many, however, such a gesture should already have been made.