Are Premier League Footballers Good Value for Money?

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens Football Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here.

Written by Paul Hilton.

The title of this article would suggest that, like most, I subscribe to the notion that Premier League footballers get paid too much. Not so, in fact I feel that the enormous pay cheque they receive every week is thoroughly justified.

Now before you decide to string me up, hear me out.

For us mere mortals to justify either claim, we need to fully understand the reasons behind the pay scales in the first place.

Football is the most popular sport in the world; millions of people sit down either at a football stadium or on their sofas every weekend to enjoy the ‘beautiful game’. Indeed in some countries football has become a rival to religion in respect of attendance figures. Now, with this sort of popularity comes cash. Sky TV pumped 1.3 billion pounds into the Premier League alone in 2007-08 as the new 3 year television deal came in. Sky only received four of the six packages available to televise due to the monopoly rule change, with Setanta paying 392 million pounds for the remaining two packages totalling 46 games. Clubs also receive money from ticket revenue, sponsorship, prize money, hospitality, player sales etc. I could digress into the full finances of a football club, but not today, I just need to illustrate that the Premier League generates mountains of cash.

Ask yourself this question, ‘When you go down to your local football ground or switch on Sky Sports, who do you want to see?’ Is it Roman Abramovich? Or Randy Learner? Or Thaksin Shinawatra? The answer is No. Its not even Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, it’s the players. The Premier League has once again risen to become what is widely regarded as the ‘Best League in the World’ and that is because of the standard of the players in the league. Granted as a Manchester City fan I sat at The City of Manchester Stadium last year and watched some awful football, and regardless of the fact that it was so bad, I’m a Manchester City fan, so I was there. But we all live in hope that one day you will be watching players of quality at your club, and, if its not going to happen, there is always Match of the Day, isn’t there?

The wealth is already there in football, the big money started rolling into the Premier League before the Lampards, Terrys, Ronaldos, and Fabregas’ of this world began their careers. Surely it’s only right that the actual performers, the very people who are there to entertain us should get a relevant cut of the fortunes made by the clubs. I’m sure that actors, musicians and TV stars would agree. They make large sums of money themselves but are not subjected to the same amount of scrutiny as footballers over their pay.

People talk about football as a working class sport and cite this as a justification of their issue with player’s wages, but the players aren’t working class anymore. They are now athletes, they train incredibly hard, harder than most of people reading this article could. Its ok saying ‘I’d love to get paid all that money for just playing football’ but the fact is, we’re not because we’re not good enough, or fit enough, or young enough. I’m sure that there are people who would love to be CEO of Microsoft, but they aren’t good enough, or the Prime Minister, but again most people lack the skills. This is just a fact of life. All industries have an elite sector that gets paid unbelievable amounts of money, but business is business, and in footballing terms the Premier League is the elite sector.

Not every one likes football. But football is just one of many highly paid entertainment industries. That is what football and sport in general at the top level is, and always will be, entertainment industries no different to Hollywood or the music scene. There are many sports which are equally as high profile and as high, if not higher paid. Formula One is a good example where as far back as 2004 Michael Schumacher was earning approximately half a million pounds per week at Ferrari. Nobody questions this.

Like Golf? It may have less mass appeal than football but their top sportsman Tiger Woods is raking in 40 million pounds per year. OK lets move away from sports, and briefly into the more conventional entertainment industries.

Oprah Winfrey sits on a couch and talks to people, in basic terms anyway, and brings home an enormous 128 million pounds per year, just think about that amount of money for a second, at 2.4 million pounds per week, Oprah outclasses every footballer on the planet in terms of wages yet it goes almost unnoticed.

Shockingly Judge Judith Sheindlin aka ‘Judge Judy’ makes 15 million pounds per year for allowing cameras into her equivalent of a small claims court. What a fantastic amount of money to be earning for doing the same job as Judges throughout America.

Many people are unaware what the actual average wage is in the Premier League. The figure (correct to April 2006) is 13,000 pounds per week, massive, yes but not as high as most ordinary fans perception. In the Championship the average wage is 3,700 pounds per week and in League One its 1,300 pounds. League Two players on average bring home 950 pounds per week, and this is all pre-tax. Granted there are bonuses and sponsorship deals on top but these figures are difficult to obtain and calculate.

Please don’t think that I do not support the call that Nurses, Firemen, Police Constables and other public sector workers should be better paid, but it is not the purpose of this article to judge the Government’s finances. I do however find it incredibly hypocritical that so many people openly denounce footballers for simply getting their cut from the industry they have earned their place in and fully contribute to. Ironically the same people may be found watching Simon Cowell on the X-Factor on a Saturday evening, blissfully unaware, or simply not interested in the fact that he made a staggering 22 million pounds between June 2006 and June 2007 alone.

Footballers are now celebrities in the calibre of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Madonna, Kylie Minogue et al. They have the same, if not more intrusive media attention, especially in the UK and same role-model expectations flung upon them, yet we constantly question the reasons behind the footballer’s wages.

Ask yourself this, if you were offered the same money for a job you were good at and enjoyed, would you say no?

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens Football Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here.

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