Often Partisan


“Gerrofff the pitch, you ain’t worth a fiver a week let alone five grand!”

As football fans, we’ve all heard it. We’ve probably even shouted it once or twice. Footballer’s wages are a sore point to many, especially when you read about a new signing for one of the bigger clubs earning the sort of money a week the ordinary man would be happy earning a year.

I was intrigued by this piece in the Daily Mail, about Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner. As the Mail are wont to do, they kinda missed the point – the headline is cast to make the Dane look bad – but I think Mr Bendtner makes some salient points. Yes, it’s easy to not feel at all sorry for someone earning £2.6million a year, and I think Nicklas himself probably understands how lucky he is – but even so, he’s got a point – his job isn’t just 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon kicking a football around.

At the very top of the footballing profession, football becomes life. When someone earns the kind of money footballers do in the Premiership, it’s as though the price they pay for that is that the public thinks that they “own” them. A footballer’s life is never private; as Nicklas says, he has to accept that when he’s out and about he’s going to be approached by Joe Public asking for an autograph; or by a pap looking for a picture for the next sleazy front page spread. Someone in that position has to be incredibly careful what they say in public, as any slip will be seized upon by a press intent on showing the bad side of football to people.

It’s also a life of sacrifice; footballers have to be sensible about what they eat and drink – many are teetotal and for them lazing in front of the box with a kebab isn’t an option that they can take up that often. Furthermore, to get to the top of the game many have had to sacrifice the nights out and excesses of adolescence in hope of a career that might or might not happen. Whilst someone earning £50k per week may be on top of the wave, you can bet it took a long way to get up there and for the majority of footballers, it’s something that they will not achieve.

Another factor to take into account is that a footballer’s career is pretty short; and can be ended in the blink of an eye with one nasty injury. Taking that into consideration, it’s understandable that footballers push to maximise their incomes whilst they can – after all, when it’s gone it’s gone. Once a career is over, the hard part comes; how many footballers have a good enough education to run a business, or to do something similar that can offer them a continued massive influx of cash? Often footballers have huge commitments to keep up with; and once the regular pay packet has gone so too do the perks of the job; the pied á terre in the city, the country house, the private schooling and what not.

I think it’s fair to say as well that if people are prepared to pay that sort of money, only someone with incredibly strong principles would turn it down; I know if someone offered me a million a year I wouldn’t say no because it was too much money. I guess this is it really – as a right-wing friend of mine likes saying, it’s the politics of envy. People moan about how much footballers earn, but a lot of it is because they are jealous of it – I have to admit, I am. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if a footballer is earning 50k a week net, then he should be paying a fairly hefty amount to the taxman – money that will all come back into the economy and spread out amongst the rest of us.

Here’s the good bit though – we have control over it. To a degree. As the Secret Footballer piece in the Guardian says, we as fans ultimately fund footballer’s wages. If you’re that unhappy with them – then you have a choice. However, I think if you don’t want to fund inflated wages you’d be better off cancelling your Sky subscription more than anything else, because ultimately it’s the massive contract Sky has with Premier League clubs that allows clubs to pay the massive wages that they do. Whilst your action isn’t going to do much really, if enough people do it then there would be an issue; and if you do it, you can at least say with conviction that it’s not you funding their wages.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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