Why footballers’ Wages Are Fair

In Opinion, Sport on August 1, 2012 at 5:20 PM

*With another journalist arguing their wages are not fair:


The perennial question: why are professional footballers paid so much? Because we choose to pay them so much is the simplified, but largely correct, answer (or at least around a third of the whole population according to recent statistics – either way, a fuck load of people).

The common complaint runs that it’s unjust that people earn six-figure weekly sums for kicking a glorified pig’s bladder around when nurses, teachers and soldiers (substitute other noble worker) struggle by on wages supposedly incommensurate with the importance and difficulty of their respective jobs. And some of the more pompous complainers will draw admittedly egregious analogies to third world poverty. The arguments are well-meaning and certainly appealing, superficially at least, but they just don’t hold up to rigorous scrutiny.

The facts are all professional footballers have worked extremely hard since a very young age to perfect their trade and reach the top of probably the most competitive field in the world. At the highest level (ultimately) small differences in ability spell the difference between great success and failure; millions and thousands – all based on the consumer’s insatiable appetite for the service and associated willingness to pay for it in various forms. As such, demand from employers is great and supply of necessary quality relatively low, increasingly so higher up. So wages are greatly pushed up due to competition. The money is also a great, aspirational carrot, if you will, for everyone to work hard for. Granted, one could call for greater governmental regulation (wage capping etc), but this would probably just lead to the best workers and organisations fleeing abroad to similarly competitive markets (see the recent exodus of rich French people following Francois Hollande’s introduction of the 75% tax rate).This would deprive the UK economy of the world’s best talent in a very prosperous market and millions in tax revenue. Nearly all elite employees (i.e. those who don’t avoid or evade tax) will see almost half of their earnings go straight to the tax man, and in effect pay all those aforementioned supposedly embittered teachers, nurses and soldiers – often at the expense of super-rich foreign oil magnates owning organisations. And on top of this, many – quietly – give very generously to charity (a player giving £10,000 is less newsworthy than a kiss-and-tell), and even stop civil wars! (Though being a good role model is not technically important to wages – employees are judged on performance, not ethics.)

It may sound ridiculous to take footballers’ employment status out of context, but why not? Millions choose the best job offers, and do jobs they know aren’t of great benefit to the world yet feel they should be paid reasonably for their hard work, including myself (this is not my job). Why should footballers not be similarly remunerated? Because they have the gall to enjoy what they do and don’t – ostensibly, at least – save or educate the world?! In relation to the real money men in football, the players don’t even do that well financially, and much of the money really rich footballers earn is from outside ventures.  For instance, in British football, Michael Owen is the second wealthiest player with an estimated value of £40m, yet only comes in at 66th in the whole British football money list. At least footballers aren’t, as the same type of complainers so often decry of bankers, screwing the world up. I, for one, would certainly much rather see the money generated from football go into the hands of its primary players, so to speak, than its hangers-on. Granted, this may all be at the expense of the traditional fan being priced out of watching his team live week in week out, but by the same token he or she will have a far, far greater opportunity to follow football in one form or another cheaply…swings and roundabouts.

A typical counter-argument runs that all this cold logic is not the point; morally, players don’t deserve what they get. This may be so, but surely the logical extension of this position is an often hypocritical, arguably rather self-righteous belief that billions are also at least somewhat wrong in liking football – for essentially paying footballers. This is bollocks; people can like what they want, especially if it doesn’t affect anyone else. Football muggles must at least recognise this, and that their opinion is little if any better than the next person’s. For the great irony in all the sanctimonious lefties – as it typically is – denouncing free-market capitalism as an elitist system is that – in many cases, including this – the people actually do have the power. People can love football for what it is or talk with their wallet and don’t watch it, leaving it to wither and die. I, for one, am more than happy to buy a few pints to fund great athletes, camaraderie and drama.

Joel Durston

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