Footballers and Bankers

Earlier this season Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s Chief Executive was said to be canvassing opinion of all the Chairmen of the top flight’s clubs on a number of financial issues including a proposed salary cap. Scudamore has been against a salary cap in the past and is said to be still of the same mindset. At present, I tend to agree with him.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I would love to see a salary cap across all job markets in this country, which might certainly help level the playing field a little. That may never happen though and by targeting this one particular industry it might be the beginning of the end for “the best league in the world”.

Scudamore’s first argument for not capping wages in the Premier League is that it would immediately make it a less desirable place for the world’s best footballers and therefore less competitive with the other big leagues in Europe. The obvious way round this would be to have a UEFA wide cap, which has been proposed reasonably recently by President Michèl Platini. He suggested a percentage cap that would mean that clubs could only spend between 50% and 60% of income on wages. This has been left unworkable though by many of the major clubs around Europe threatening that if such proposals were implemented that they could breakaway to form a separate league.

The leveller - Michel Platini - scuppered by Europes big clubs

Richard Scudamore also suggested that there was very little point to the percentage cap as the larger clubs would still be able to spend more on wages and today’s order would still be maintained and perhaps even made more distinct as smaller clubs would struggle to innovate and grow.

Football’s internal politics, like most things in the modern world, is a competition between different elements and factions. Governing bodies tussle with the clubs and the clubs compete with their players to secure the best deal.

There has been a number of articles and opinions put forward about how clubs are being held to ransom by players demanding huge new contracts on the threat that they would leave for free. It is suggested that a salary cap would put an end to this. I’m not sure this is fair. Football clubs have an extremely chequered past at looking after their players. Only recently have footballers received employment rights that most of us take for granted and it’s difficult to blame them for realising what they are worth to the clubs.

Jean-Marc Bosman – end of an era for player exploitation

Footballers are, to use to the modern vernacular, wealth generators for both clubs and country. In the 2008/2009 season the Premier League’s clubs made a total revenue of €2.326 billion, which is the highest revenue of any football league in the world. This is set to expand. With new deals agreed with broadcasters abroad for the 2010-2013 period, the league is set to bring in a further £1.437 billion over that period. This is four times La Liga’s annual foreign rights income of £132 million, six times Serie A’s income of £74 million, fourteen times the Bundesliga’s and eighteen times Ligue 1’s earnings.

Like it or not, it is big players – your Wayne Rooneys, Didier Drogbas and Steven Gerrards – who are commanding the immense figures that drive their clubs’ revenues, particularly in the overseas markets where sometimes fans tend to have a greater affiliation to players rather than clubs. You have to remember that these few players are the crème of the industry. Is it not right, given our present economic system, that they should be recompensed accordingly, not just for their footballing ability but for their money-making ability as well?

There are of course other professions, which pay much more than being a footballer; Harrison Ford for instance regularly rakes in $38 million a year, we all know about the bankers and their bonuses and what about the investors who make money by just having it in the first place. Why does footballers pay attract such attention? It can’t be that we are just worried about the state of our club’s finances. Professional clubs, since inception, have never been overly stable enterprises.

I think it is partly to do with how quickly the transfer and wage market has inflated. Fans are not used to seeing players paid £100,000 a week. The mean reason, however, I believe is that the general public can relate a lot more to a footballer, many of whom have grown up in local neighbourhoods and who we see, like an old friend, every Saturday (or Sunday if you are the Champions!) at the ground or on TV . Shady money-men and glitzy film stars are much more removed from us and it is far easier to concede that their pay cheques should be many times greater than ours.

A controversial topic this week I’m sure but while I’m not convinced that footballers are worth every penny they are paid, I think at the present time capping their salaries would be rather unfair.

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