This week saw the 50th anniversary of the scrapping of the salary cap in English Football. Many are understandably not aware of the anniversary, some don’t even know that a salary cap had existed for footballers in England’s ‘beautiful game’.

Would You Like to Earn £100,000 Per Week ?
It is no longer shocking to hear it reported that a professional footballer in the English Premier League is negotiating a salary or earning over £100,000 per week, so granted when the general public see such sums publicised it is understandable there be a call for a salary cap in the game.

From my understanding (and I may well be corrected) until recently the most highly paid footballer in the world didn’t play in the English Premier League, or Spain’s La Liga, or even Italy’s Serie A, but played in the German Bundesliga.

This may seem quite hard to believe when we hear constant media reports revealing how much England’s Premier League ‘stars’ earn, but when you take into account that some salaries are reported as a ‘deal’, what does this include? Such reports rarely take into account factors such as tax deductions, agents fees, image rights, and as such the final salary could be very different.

This is not to say that the amounts earned aren’t still excessive when compared to the average man or woman in the street, but the use of the term ‘deal’ is still worth considering.

More Than Just a Game ?
It has to be noted that the game of professional football has developed into a world wide business, not just a game or even a sport dominated by a few nations. This can be validated both from what is seen on the pitch (e.g England beat Turkey 8-0 in 1987, now probably a very different score) and also off the pitch where clubs are multi-million if not multi-billion pound businesses owned by corporations, sheikhs, oligarchs, world-leaders, media-moguls and billionaires.

Maybe things would be slightly different in the English game, if the ‘local-boy-done-good’ still owned English Football clubs, for this I refer to the likes of Sir Jack Hayward, Jack Walker and Dave Whelan, where whilst clubs were still run as viable businesses, with realistic aims and goals, there was a clear duty of care shown to the club and it’s supporters.

Reflecting back to 1961 when the salary cap was abolished, star players like Johnny Haynes (the first player to earn £100 per week) and Sir Stanley Matthews, were in receipt of much higher salaries than some of their team-mates, and this is justified, by them not only being arguably better players than their peers, but is no exaggeration to say they would greatly increase gate-receipts and the subsequent revenues of their respective clubs.

So when you consider the modern game of football has the additional revenue channels of TV, radio, advertising, image rights, merchandising, prize-money and other revenue streams, it could be argued that the modern day superstars of world football earn their salaries through what they earn for their clubs/employers.

Average Players on Less than Average Salaries
I think the main thing bemoaned by many when it comes to how much professional footballers earn, is the fact that arguably average players who may spend a large proportion of their time at a club in the reserves, on the bench or in the physio room still earn very large salaries.

It has however gone far beyond the point where the fans and supporters pay the players salaries ,whether this be through gate receipts or merchandise, but at a time when more and more clubs are reporting financial losses and several clubs have either gone into administration or disappeared altogether, surely the overall business model and operations of a club have to be looked at.

The one fact is the clubs decide how much to pay players … they can after all say no!

And if that point still doesn’t ‘strike a chord’ with you – if you felt comfortable with going to your boss and asking for a pay rise to double your salary … and they said YES … would you turn it down because of what people think … … didn’t think so.

Well You Know It Is A Very Short Career
I remember for many years the one argument for why footballers earn a higher salary than the average person in the street, and that is the risk that comes with the career and also the fact that most playing careers are over before the age of 35 (Ryan Giggs and Sir Stanley Matthews being amongst the exceptions). Even this argument seems to have been countered in recent years that when you consider :

  • If a premierleague footballer has a career of just five years on £50,000 salary per week, he would likely earn £6,500,000 (after a tax rate of 50%) over the five years.
  • Whereas on the estimated average annual UK salary of £25,948pa (as of Jan 2011) it would take the average ‘man or woman in the street’ 357 years to come close to the 5 year salary of some of the Premier League footballer.
  • What is even more shocking is when you consider that the reportedly most highly paid player in the English Premier League is on £240,000 per week.
  • Granted this gives further foundation to the argument for the introduction of a salary cap on professional footballers in English Football, but it is worthwhile considering that whilst many ‘superstars’ in the Premier League earn many millions of pounds the vast majority of professional footballers earn nowhere near as much.

    Good for The UK Economy if Not the Game ?
    Also, is it worth considering how much the taxation of the elite footballing salaries contribute to the British economy every year at 50%, especially when there is an increase in foreign club ownership in England?

    Maybe the new ‘Financial Fair Play Regulations’ being introduced by UEFA will effectively temper the rapid rise in player salaries for those clubs competing in Europe (what about the others ?) in trying to introduce some correlation between club spending (including player salaries) and how much they earn ……. but we will wait and see.