A recent BBC News editorial recently asked us ‘how long would it take you to earn a top footballer’s salary?’ For most of us the answer was in the hundreds of years, figures we can’t begin to even dream of. General consensus is that the average professional footballer earns way, way more than they deserve, nobody warrants such astronomical figures to kick a ball around a park for an hour and a half a week, do they? But like it or not, they probably do – and here’s why.
A few weeks ago the Premier League sold its TV rights for a staggering £5.14billion, an incredible figure before you even consider overseas income, advertising, endorsements, merchandising – the list goes on. It’s no secret that football is big business – the money flows down, the clubs get their share, and with it they pay the wages. These figures aren’t going to decrease any time soon; the networks can justify paying these massive sums because we keep watching the games week in week out. So the question I ask is, why shouldn’t the players we actually tune in to watch be the ones who profit? Where else would the money go? Isn’t it better that the players get the rewards and not a selection of undeserving fat cat business owners?
Comparing the salaries of the average Premier League footballer, around £25-30k a week, to that of the CEO’s of the FTSE 100, about £65k, helps a little when proving that their wages maybe aren’t as ludicrous as the media suggest. Teams by definition are only as strong of the sum of their parts; take the top 10 highest paid players away from Barcelona and what would happen? Take the top ten highest earners from Barclays, or Tesco however and who among us, the regular consumer, would notice a difference? But Barcelona without Messi however, without Neymar? Disaster. Arguably the
CEO’s don’t deserve to be bringing home that sort of money either. Perhaps nobody does, but the reality is that they do. In the modern world the concept of a good day’s work for a good day’s pay seems out of touch, but this is no argument to suggest footballers are overpaid.
Modern day football icons have worked hard to get to where they are; years of effort, thousands of hours of training and a measure of innate talent. Away from the global superstars however and the story is different. Take for example the phenomenon of the reserve goalkeeper. Earning tens of thousands a week and often having to do absolutely nothing – how can you possibly justify this? The answer here is that this player, just a regular guy who had an obvious talent in goal as a child, he didn’t choose to be a reserve.
He worked hard from an early age, training, pushing himself to be the best he could, eventually earning himself a contract for a club where he just wasn’t quite good enough to be first choice between the sticks. He may not be giving us the entertainment that we covet from our heroes, but only a small fraction of those who try ever manage to.
When I was asked as a child what I wanted to be as a when I grew up, I responded that I wanted to be a footballer. Many of us did. Yet at the start of the 2013/14 Premier League season only 68 of the first team players were home grown, countless among us fell by the wayside as our progression was cut short in a hugely competitive industry, largely due to a simple lack of ability. The risk involved with becoming a professional footballer, while probably not outweighed by the benefits, shouldn’t be taken for granted. To succeed in football you need to make it your life, often at the expense of formal education and a regular childhood. And yet the great majority of those who try to succeed will end up playing in the lower leagues for relatively paltry salaries, or not at all.
The shelf life of a professional footballer is comparatively tiny compared to a more typical career choice. Retiring at 65 after 40 years of hard work is not an option, most are lucky to manage 10 years, and if they suffer a bad enough injury may not even manage that. A player who reaches 25 and hasn’t made the big time, who’s contract is on the verge of running out with no talks of renewal, a person who left school without any form of qualifications has very little in the way of prospects. Punditry and coaching are the obvious routes for ex-players, but these positions are generally reserved for those with more illustrious playing careers. For the average teenager, a resounding ambition to become a successful footballer is a serious risk.
Some players however have very little to lose, a South American boy coming from abject poverty has few choices, football for many is the only way out. Why not reward the tireless efforts of those providing us with so much entertainment with a fair share of the spoils? Football is entertainment, and as a rule we pay for entertainment. Nobody complains when a Hollywood actor gets paid millions to star in a film and we will shell out hundreds of pounds a year to see bands performing live. Real fans watch football religiously and many pay through the nose for the pleasure of doing so, so what is wrong with this money going into the pockets of those we love to watch?
by John Crabb