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Football is a class act

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Tim Vickery | 09:57 UK time, Monday, 9 January 2012

Over the festive season many South American players celebrated their break from football – by organising games of football, often for charity.

With all the complaints about too much football, this might seem like strange behaviour.

But these Christmas and new year kickabouts have none of the pressure of their normal professional careers.

Most top footballers seem to agree that they got more enjoyment from playing when they were kids when everything was more care-free.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi left his home country Argentina at an early age to join Spanish club Barcelona and is now regarded as the best player in the world. Photo: Getty

These days their bodies are stretched to the limit – often in ways that carry long-term consequences.

Their work, sometimes their very self-worth, is played out, judged and at times found wanting in front of thousands in the stadium and a TV audience of millions.

There are less stressful ways of making a living – but what a living. After two years at a top club, a player can have earned so much that he never needs to work again.

There is an obvious case to be made about the distribution of wealth but many of those who attack footballers’ earnings feel that respect and the big money should go, in the recent words of one British politician, to those who perform “serious hard work”.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is some class prejudice in this. Golf stars, Formula One drivers and the top tennis players never seem to attract the same criticism – but they are usually middle class.

The footballers, meanwhile, have triumphed in an activity that has few barriers to entry.

A top player for a major Premier League club may have been born in a poor area of somewhere like Ecuador or Senegal. What carries him there is his own merit.

Unlike many walks of life, having a famous father can only get you so far.

It is open to all and football is one of the most-competitive areas of contemporary life.

Those who shine in it are putting on a show that is enjoyed by countless millions.

Throw in the risk of injury and the short duration of the career and it becomes hard to begrudge footballers their pay packets.

Handing over so much money to these young men is not without problems, however.

One of my favourite quotes about the game comes from the Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning coach Cesar Luis Menotti.

He said: “To be a footballer means being a privileged interpreter of the feelings and dreams of many, many people.”

A player is important in terms of who he represents but it becomes easier to forget this when the rivers of money are flowing.

Players are more inclined to act like private companies, where the objective of the exercise is to use the prestige won on the pitch as a passport to ‘the life’ – an extended version of a pop video or a double-page spread in a glossy celebrity magazine.

Even more worrying than this inversion of values is the transformation of youngsters into commodities.

In Brazil there are promising 15 year olds whose families have stopped working.

Everyone has become a support structure to the teenage prodigy, the boy prince forced to carry the economic hopes of his entire family.

It is clearly not right to burden an adolescent with such responsibilities.

No wonder some of these players look back so fondly on care-free childhood football.

In this awkward balancing act between business and culture, the truly great footballers have something in common.

They exist in an adult world of sponsorship, contracts and cost-benefit analysis – but, when they take the field, they are able to retain some of that youthful spirit of play.

They also understand the game well enough to know that its greatest pleasures are collective. It is a case of, ‘What we achieved together’ rather than, ‘Did you see my freestyle trick?’

The previous two paragraphs could serve as a description of Barcelona and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi.

A few weeks ago he hurried back across the Atlantic after playing in two grueling World Cup qualifiers for his country.

Should Barcelona rest him at the weekend? Coach Pep Guardiola thought not. “Playing football fulfils him,” Guardiola said.

There is never any sense with Messi that being a footballer plays second fiddle to living the life of a celebrity. Guardiola’s selection paid off.

Messi played and scored as Barcelona swept Zaragoza aside. He played with verve and spark, with joy and also with team spirit.

Messi hardly seems to care about individual awards. And because he plays that way, he keeps winning them.

And he is on the podium once more, the unassuming little guy within reach of another Fifa World Player of the Year award.

Please comment on the piece in the space provided below. You can send questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com and I’ll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week’s postbag.

Q: A lot has been made of Santos's rise to the top of South American football, with Neymar grabbing all the headlines, along with his young Brazilian team-mate Ganso. But what has Elano brought to the team? I always thought he was a classy player but he always seemed to be unsettled. Has playing second fiddle to Neymar helped him recapture top form?
Odhran Livingstone

He has not brought too much to the team of late. Elano has had a bad few months, with loss of form and injuries. He has indeed had a strange career – a very useful part of Dunga’s Brazil side, and branded as world-class for a few months at Manchester City. As you say, he was frequently unsettled. Perhaps he has been a victim of his own versatility? In form and in the right frame of mind, there is plenty he can bring to the centenary year of Santos, from his superbly struck set-pieces to his capacity to operate in a number of functions. This is a big year for him.

Q: I was watching the excellent documentary Senna recently and I'm currently fascinated by this amazing man. I was wondering how he was viewed in Brazil.
Stuart Banham

Ayrton Senna remains a revered national hero. I remember being on a beach on the Sao Paulo coast in April 1993, when suddenly everyone was on their feet cheering and celebrating. Why? Because Senna had just won a Grand Prix in England. I couldn’t think of anyone in our culture who would provoke the same scale of response. He was successful in that long, dry time when Brazil was not winning World Cups – and also when there was little to celebrate in Brazilian public and economic life.
The fact that he was a rich kid winning in the sport of rich kids is also important. Middle-class Brazilians could relate to him more easily than to many of the footballers.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    first

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Tim

    Great article once again. I echo your sentiments on Messi and his desire to play as regularly as possible. I forever hate reading about how our players in England need a winter break despite being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to do their job for 90 minutes once, sometimes twice a week. Its clearly a fitness issue if our poor little players suffer from "burnout" when it comes to an international tournament every other summer. I may be wrong but the break in Brazil isn't long at all when you consider that the state championships begin soon and as you point out a lot of players play in charity matches. On that subject, did you catch the Amigos do Zico game? Was very entertaining if not slightly disturbing to watch considering how players such as Ronaldo have filled out.

    Finally, Tim as I am going to be in Brazil on one of my twice annual trips over from next Monday, could you let me know how the weather is right now in Rio? Hoping for maximum sun, minimum rain in the three weeks im there.

    Cheers.

  • Comment number 3.

    second!

  • Comment number 4.

    Ahh no...devvoed. Pulpgrape you little rascal...getting in there before me.

  • Comment number 5.

    Messi is a breath of fresh air, the best player in the world and seems to genuinely love the game and enjoy himself, brilliant lad.

  • Comment number 6.

    Tim, I don't normally enjoy reading or agree with your articles. But this is first class.

  • Comment number 7.

    Great stuff as usual Tim, really enjoyable read. Not much left to say about Messi, but it is telling that he puts so much faith in his team-mates. I felt he was a bit more selfish / anxious in his play in the earlier part of the season and Barca's results suffered, to be fair. A team player yes, but I think he wants to beat Ronaldo to the pichichi this year!

    It is testament to La Masia that Barca have produced so many excellent footballers who all remain completely grounded in their approach and the comments they make. They simply all seem to be in love with the game.

    That is some amount of pressure to put on a 15 year old though, totally ridiculous. You only need to look at some of the stories coming out of Germany in recent times to see how too much pressure can become too much to bear. I think people need to distinguish between pressure on the one hand and giving their body and mind a break from football at the right times. They can be related, but are totally different issues.

  • Comment number 8.

    PulpGrape, you seem to fail to realise that most European leagues have winter breaks, as far as I can see only the English and Portuguese leagues don't. The other leagues still play top players similarly large wages so what's the problem with players and managers in this country suggesting it? There seems to be a correlation between Germany being successful in International competitions and the fact they have a smaller league and a winter break so why not? And I can't imagine the wages of players like Ribery or Robben at Bayern Munich being exactly low but no one there objects to the break.

  • Comment number 9.

    I confess I have always felt like I am in a tiny minority of people who feel footballer wages of 100k p/w can be readily justified.

    The common misconception people make is to make the slightly moralistic statement "no-one should be paid 100k per week for kicking a ball". This is indeed true, no-one should be, but of course the reality is no-one is.

    Messi isn't (presumably) the highest paid player at Barca simply because he's the best player. He's paid it because Barca earn X amount because of him. Part of this revenue is generated by their success on the pitch (gate receipts, prize money etc) which he obviously plays a big part in. But a huge chunk of it is also generated by marketing and TV revenue. Messi earns the majority of his money because of this.

    Whilst contractually, wage negotiations between agent and clubs may be complicated. The basic equation remains simple.

    Agent: "Your club earns X million pounds per year as a result of my client. We want X percentage of that money."

    If Barca earn tens of millions of pounds from Messi each year, which they undeniably do, he is perfectly entitled to ask for a large chunk of that. This is going to equate to a wage in excess of 200k per week.

    Surely we all accept the principle in life that nothing is truly free, rich people are reluctant to part with their cash for no reason. If clubs are not either making the right level of money, or aren't confident a certain player will in time help them get to this level of income... They wouldn't pay the wages they do.

    If one looks at the sudden pay explosion in Brazil. It has nothing to do with an increase in the standard or such like of the players. Neymar may be a sensation, but he's just another in a long line of young players who could one day allegedly conquer the world. The reason the clubs are paying so much more is the sharp swing (in Brazil's favour) of the exchange rate, and the emergence of huge third party sponsorship deals for individual players.

    Clearly the desire by South American players to stay in their home country a bit longer than they have done in their youth, and to return a bit sooner in the autumn of their career has always been there. In previous years though, the money simply wasn't there, so clubs didn't pay it. Back when Ronaldo (striker) was playing, had he been able to earn £60k per week+ in Brazil he probably would have gone from Madrid straight to Corinthians rather than via Milan. Footballers, nine times out of ten follow two things in their career, money and (significant) trophies. I think it's fair to say that many of them, if the money is right would rather pursue the glory/trophies in their homeland, but ultimately they still follow the money.

    As Tim so rightly points out, a footballers career is short, precarious and at times insanely stressful. Presumably the majority of them have no desire to go and work 9-5 in a 'regular' job when they hang their boots up. So to make sure they don't have to, they will always try and earn as much as is physically possible during their career. Footballers chasing money is not (always) greed, but more times than not it is simply pragmatism. Tell someone they have to earn all their life's money before they're 35 and suddenly you'll find people changing jobs on an annual basis to get the best wage, being very demanding in pay negotiations and generally seeming money obsessed!

    This may seem a cliché but people seem to take a staggeringly hypocritical view of footballers. They remain, in essence, normal people like you and me... keen to live as comfortable life as possible and retire as early as they can. What is forgotten is that at a football match, the player and the fans are there for two different reasons. The fan goes for pleasure, part of their leisure time away from their day job. The footballer is doing the equivalent of sitting at their desk, getting on with their job.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lovely article.

    Maybe part of the reason that golf and tennis players do not get criticised quite as much for their pay packets is that their "wage" is shown to be related to how they perform in tournaments. It is very easy to target footballers when hearing of £200000 per week wages in the media (and not hearing of the good causes that they are part of).

    I agree with the point about retaining some "youthful spirit"; it is very easy for that to be drummed out of someone whilst they are learning (whatever the subject/activity). One good way of doing that is to put huge amounts of pressure on someone when they cannot handle it. Talent + Training + Enjoyment is a pretty hard combination to beat.

  • Comment number 11.

    "It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is some class prejudice in this. Golf stars, Formula One drivers and the top tennis players never seem to attract the same criticism – but they are usually middle class."

    Always been confused by this, as F1 drivers are paid a lot more than any footballer with top drivers on nearly £500,000pw and the lowest on more than someone at the bottom of the Premier League. I'm a big F1 fan and have realised that they don't get the same amount of critism even though they all enjoy the drinking/socialising culture.

    I bet more footballers enjoy it just as much as Messi but we only get to read about the negatives of certains players complaining about the amount of games but Messi is such a good example.

    I heard recently Harry Redknapps comments about Sandro's injury saying how he wouldn't be subject to playing lots of games in Brazil and wasn't used to it as an excuse, which is odd due to the fact International were in the Libertadores + Championship + State Champs.

  • Comment number 12.

    9. Joe G- very good points. Tim Vickery makes a very interesting point- and its the key point in this article, I think- when he says that top footballers get more grief for their salaries and perceived behaviour than sportsmen who work in more 'middle class' sports (such as F1, tennis and until recently, cricket and rugby union) do.

    I think this is particularly relevant in the UK, where it seems to me that there is a very middle class/upper middle class point of view who object to the salaries in football. They find it 'vulgar' that footballers earn such 'obscene' salaries when it is very much seen as a traditional working class sport played by young working class men and followed by working class people.

  • Comment number 13.

    Agree with a lot of the points here. At the end of the day if players can be sold by their clubs for millions and millions then they're obviously worth paying for. And unless clubs like Barca and Real had the best players, then they wouldn't be winning a lot of trophies and collecting the massive amounts of prize money, gate receipts and merchandising sales that go along with that.

    Just wondered Tim how the Brazilian midfield players that play in the Premier League are seen over in Brazil and with the national side? Obviously at the moment Ramires, Lucas, Anderson and Sandro are all playing and I've always wandered who's most likely to be appearing in the first choice Brazil team??

  • Comment number 14.

    Top class as usual Tim, I agree footballers shouldnt take as much flak as they do, its the same in Basketball Baseball IPL (cricket) and many other team sports however with the view coming from a place where the sport speaks to millions, the wages shouldnt effect the relationship the sport has with the people i.e. in england to watch Arsenal is very expensive, whilst they do sell out if prices continue rising the leighman who grew up watching their football team on the terraces won't be able to afford it!

  • Comment number 15.

    Post 9 says it all - a footballer is paid according to how much the football club makes from them, so I can't see why people are complaining. Yes there are plenty of more worthy jobs, but, unforntunately, they do not generate the amount of money football does so will never be paid the same.
    You could argue that footballers give more back to society simply by playing the game, and giving millions of people something to talk about, believe in and support then any banker that also earns a stupidly large amount of money.

    Concerning F1 drivers, they are paid so much because as well as the huge advertising revenue brought in, they are essentially risking their lives every time they race and therefore get compensated for that.

  • Comment number 16.

    Let's be honest here, Roger Federer (the greatest tennis player there has been so far) gets paid by WINNING tournaments. He doesn't get paid 100k per week for turning up and training. There is no comparison for footballers and tennis players.

    Likewise, Formula 1 drivers. How many F1 drivers are there in comparison to footballers? These guys actually put their lives at risk. Not to mention that collectively footballers earn more than the 30 odd proffesional F1 drivers there.

    I do enjoy your blog Tim, but these are very lazy comparisons. I think bar the NBA, footballers are the highest paid profession.

    I think the reason that many people think footballers are paid too much are people like Ashley Cole who leave club A because he can earn 8k per week more at club B. Some of it is simple and plain envy, another part is the fact that other professions that are more conducive to society such as NHS (nurses etc), Fire Service, Civil Service etc are paid far less and perhaps underpaid for the work that they do.

    To say that "their bodies are stretched to the limit" is silly as well. Look at the soldiers out in the world, their bodies and mental faculties are "put to the limit" a lot more.

    In fact despite mass recession across large parts of the world, increases in unemployment, decrease in economic growth, football or rather wages, are one of the few things to increase. It seems football is in it's own bubble, and I for one cannot wait until it collapses.

  • Comment number 17.

    Two points from me:

    Firstly, to be a formula one driver is to be one of the best 26 drivers in the world. To be a premiership footballer is to be one of the best 4-500 footballers residing in England. Hardly the same thing in terms of reaching the pinnacle.

    Secondly, can we try and avoid confusing education and intellect with being a "rich kid". Have you heard Roger Federer (or Fernando Alonso) speak in one of at least 3 different languages? Of course, you've heard Rooney, Terry, Gerrard and co, usually in English cliche.

    To sum up, footballers get paid alot of money because of the TV rights market in their respective country/continent of employment. To extraplote from this a kind of super-natural omnipotence, coupled with altruism that would make Ghandi look selfish I would suggest misses the point.

    Messi is very good, mind.

  • Comment number 18.

    I agree with (and enjoyed) most of your article, Mr V. But that bit about it being 'hard to begrudge' the huge wages. Hmmm. If we are to believe in meaningful teamwork (and I think you're right that this is what makes life worthwhile), then surely it applies across the board, not just in football? Isn't this 'logic' of high wages in danger of bankrupting footy, just as it bankrupted the North Atlantic enconomies?

    I love the point you make about the pleasure in simply PLAYING the game as a child. This is what I see in Messi, and what I hope we will one day see again in football, generally -- a love of playing rather than simply watching. Football lovers have become consumers rather than participants. Passivity is good for the telly companies. You can sell stuff to people who just sit down and WATCH all day.

    Messi is the shining example -- and how smart of Guardiola to talk about 'fulfilment'.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good article Tim, your blog is always a pleasurable diversion on a Monday lunchtime.

    If you have time could you settle a debate I had with a bloke in the pub last week.

    With the Brazilian economy now on a par with the UK and projections of it becoming even greater do you think this wealth could filter into the Brazilian league and lead to it rivalling the major European leagues before the end of the decade?

    I personally don't think it will - probably in the same way that a lot of the Brazilian population won't see a penny of the increased wealth I can't see it drastically changing things in footballing terms either. I'd be interested to see what you think.

  • Comment number 20.

    And isn't it also the case that the more money a PL footballer is paid, the more money goes back into the UK treasury via the 50% tax he has to pay.

    So, a footballer that is reportedly getting £200k per week would be contributing a large amount in tax.

    On this basis should we be encouraging more people like Abramovich and Mansour to pay more money to more footballers so that the country gets more in to the tax coffers.

    What the government then do with the tax collected is another story - it would be nice to have a scheme where a large amount of it go into grass roots football.

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't agree with much in this article.

    Firstly - let's just all agree Messi is outstanding. Done - even my Mum knows that.

    Secondly - the money. Give them 10K a week, even 20, 30, 40 - but we're going to 200k per week due to Arab and Oligarch wealth, not even market forces (as is often argued). This is simply ridiculous.

    Thirdly - how dare anyone compare the wages of a footballer to golf and tennis, say. An average left back squad player can sign a 4 year contract worth millions - IT's THE CONTRACT SIGNING THAT'S THE PROBLEM. With golf, you have to be one of the best to complete - then win to earn to the big bucks. Same in tennis. Football you can see out a contract on the bench for West Ham and earn more than the golfers and tennis players we discuss.

    The God like status footballers are held in is the problem and this article exacerbates this. Next we'll be sympathising these footballers can't drink on New Year - oh wait there, we already do that too.

    I'd love to be Rooney, etc. Coat for 6 games - then score and you're a God again. Brilliant.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great read Tim, Good to hear the other side of the coin rather than the relentless bashing players take from the media when it comes to salaries. The money must go to the entertainers.

  • Comment number 23.

    One of the many things that makes Messi stand out is that he plays with a smile on his face. Compare and contrast with the majority of our Premier League stars who give the distinct impression of not enjoying their profession.

  • Comment number 24.

    21.
    At 13:04 9th Jan 2012, wordonstreet wrote:
    I don't agree with much in this article.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think you're talking nonsense.

    There are not different rules for footballers in contrast to F1 and tennis players, in terms of this sentence you wrote: "IT's THE CONTRACT SIGNING THAT'S THE PROBLEM. With golf, you have to be one of the best to complete - then win to earn to the big bucks."

    In football, like in other sports, you have to reach a certain level before you earn that level of contract that you are talking about. Ask all the players that get released from clubs from youth/academy level to free transferred senior players at the end of a season. And being a team sport, the footballer's career is much more hazardous- a player can find himself out of favour under a different manager, or if his team changes formation.

    You're the type of person who reads the tabloids, reads reports about certain individuals and their wages, and then you assume it applies across the board.

  • Comment number 25.

    I do not agree with the golf and Formula 1 comment on wages. Yes, the top of these sports get paid a huge amount, but there can only be 24 F1 drivers at 1 time, of which only half will be paid a footballers wage or more. Likewise, in golf, a player must perform to get paid a huge amount and even then, only the top 100 or so players in the world will earn more than £5k per week.

    Footballers get paid for mediority much of the time and I am sure people will welcome a move to make wages linked with performance. Then, the best will still earn the huge amounts but those who are happy to sit back on a lucrative contract will need to play to earn.

  • Comment number 26.

    Tim,
    How are Vasco da Gama doing these days? Went through a few barren years but I understand that they are getting back to the good-days that I remember when Romario was in the team.
    Is the football as "corrupt" as it used to be with god-fathers like Eurico Miranda running the show?

  • Comment number 27.

    Great Article as always Tim.

    One question in respect to players wages, why do we still refer to them as paid per week? Who else knows there salary in anything other than annual salary? Is it a throwback to days of maximum wages etc?

    Do we not need to realise that the modern footballer no longer has much in common with the average man on the street earning his weekly wage, more likely they are in line with Hollywood actors or other 'A-List' Celebs?

    Do we ever hear that Clooney isnt worth x per movie? or that Jolie is being over paid for what is essentially a 2 hour movie?

    I also dont recall any of the city fatcats being shown as earning x thousand per week.

    Yes footballers are paid high salaries, but they are a very limited skill set in a very competitive market place, and they arent the ones writing the cheques. If the clubs didnt get perceived value, they wouldnt pay it.

  • Comment number 28.

    re 20.At 13:01 9th Jan 2012, George_Putty wrote:
    And isn't it also the case that the more money a PL footballer is paid, the more money goes back into the UK treasury via the 50% tax he has to pay.

    This is not really the case!

    Footballers, like other sports people and the mega rich find loopholes and are able to get their effective tax rate down, possibly into the 10% tax range.

    F1 drivers are self employed (like many footballers) therefore their company get paid the wages which then allows themselves to pay themsolves as dividends so I understand. Then there is all the VAT returns and tax benefits (at least in the UK!) to drop their tax rate.

    The rich will always find ways to not pay 50% of earnings to the taxman...

  • Comment number 29.

    24 - Actually I'm the sort of person that's played sport his whole life and can distinguish between the earnings in different sports. It is the original article that assumes it applies across the board:

    'Golf stars, Formula One drivers and the top tennis players never seem to attract the same criticism – but they are usually middle class.

    I'm pointing out that class has nothing to do with it - rather the ability and effort / skill required in different sports. This article infers it's purely class why football is criticised - I've argued differently. Don't even know your argument short of you need to be a good footballer to be professional and this requires work. Is this the obvious game you're playing?

  • Comment number 30.

    I'd agree that players wages are usually levelled roughly to their worth to a team, but seeing how many teams run way into the red, I'd maybe argue that a lot of players are on a fair bit more than they should be? I know we can't compare football to a normal business, but the fact is these ever increasing wages are a majorr driving factor between increased prices for supporters. Ironic that you mention class, when already you need to be fairly well off to follow a football team seriously...

  • Comment number 31.

    I think SOME people are slipping into an ever so clichéd way of looking at sports wages here. They're considering the merit of the sport, the amount of physical effort, the level of skill required etc to equate how much they should be paid.

    This is nonsense! The wage a person is paid, whether they be a cabbie, a secretary, a footballer or a F1 Driver is dictated PRIMARILY why their economic value. Namely how much money they (either solely, or collectively) generate for their employers.

    If a footballer generates £20m per year for advertising and marketing solely relating to him. And he is considered (following negotiations) a 10% factor in the other £80m per year the club earns from collective marketing, then you could argue that player has earned the club £28m per year. That equals (pre-tax) £538k per week.

    When you add a players share of gate receipts, prize money and other misc income... £250k per week seem a perfectly fair share.

    I realise the above is a significant over-simplification of how wages are calculated, but the essence of the reasoning behind it is valid.

    David Beckham may no longer even be close to being the best footballer in the world, but even if he signed for Barca tomorrow and appeared only a few times as a sub, he would generate a bigger revenue return for the club than almost any other player there. Therefore his agent would reasonably argue that he should therefore be one of the club's highest paid players.

    Wages in sport are not primarily dictated by the skill of a player. Can people please grasp this!

    And before anyone reluctantly agrees to this but then bemoans how it reflects the 'game today'. The game has been like this since football went professional 100+ years ago. The only difference is the clubs make MASSIVELY more money nowadays, so the players do too.

    If you go back 50 years, sure there were one club players who stayed at the same side out of love/loyalty when they could have earned more elsewhere. But is anyone seriously saying Gerrard (Liverpool), Maldini (Milan), Raul (Madrid), Le Tissier (Southampton), Bull (Wolves) haven't turned down pay rises to stay at their favoured club?

    People are of the same nature they were 100 years ago.

  • Comment number 32.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 33.

    29.
    At 13:22 9th Jan 2012, wordonstreet wrote:
    24 - Actually I'm the sort of person that's played sport his whole life and can distinguish between the earnings in different sports. It is the original article that assumes it applies across the board:

    'Golf stars, Formula One drivers and the top tennis players never seem to attract the same criticism – but they are usually middle class.

    I'm pointing out that class has nothing to do with it - rather the ability and effort / skill required in different sports. This article infers it's purely class why football is criticised - I've argued differently. Don't even know your argument short of you need to be a good footballer to be professional and this requires work. Is this the obvious game you're playing?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    What you seem to be saying is that to be a well paid footballer requires less effort and skill compared to other sports (that are not as well paid). This basically what you're saying with your remark: "I'm pointing out that class has nothing to do with it - rather the ability and effort / skill required in different sports" Right?

    My response to that- is that's rubbish. There are plenty of young men who dream of being professional footballers, and are training and working hard in academies, youth teams etc around the world. The proportion that actually make it as professionals, never mind those on the 'megabucks' which so offends you and your like, is extremely small.

    Do I need to clarify anything else?

  • Comment number 34.

    25.
    At 13:15 9th Jan 2012, noorwich wrote:


    I do not agree with the golf and Formula 1 comment on wages. Yes, the top of these sports get paid a huge amount, but there can only be 24 F1 drivers at 1 time, of which only half will be paid a footballers wage or more
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Just out of interest, I wonder how many people get the opportunity to step up from a go-kart, to honing their skills driving a motor-racing car to then even get a chance of even testing an F1 car.

    Not many, I'd bet.

    You need the track, you need the vehicle, you need the equipment...F1 is a closed shop to a lot of people. It seems to me you need a lot of investment and backing behind you in the first place to become a F1 racing driver.

  • Comment number 35.

    As several mention above, there is a lot of difference between golfers and football players - seems that football players earn big money whether they are scoring a hat-trick or injured for 12 months....whereas golfers earn when THEY perform. If they're injured - income is zero. Of course' they're self-employed - and footballers are employees (not that they see themselves as such).
    As for the money earned in the game (football) - seems to be a misconception that these players are playing for successful organisations and so should be paid accordingly. Strange then that if football clubs were subject to the same rules as normal companies - they would be bankrupt ! The same 'principle' applies in the world of finance too though - company make a huge loss - no problem - here's a £1m bonus !
    But what I never quite get is this; a lot of people say that players earn their seven figure salaries because "it's the free market". Well children in India are paid 50p a day. That's the 'free market' too - it doesn't make it right...

  • Comment number 36.

    Good article... we all needed a break from the Suarez/Liverpool racism story-line the Guardian and most of the UK papers are pushing down everyone's throats.

  • Comment number 37.

    35.
    At 13:43 9th Jan 2012, Breadman wrote:


    As several mention above, there is a lot of difference between golfers and football players - seems that football players earn big money whether they are scoring a hat-trick or injured for 12 months....whereas golfers earn when THEY perform
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Whether they're scoring hat tricks or injured for 12 months, footballers are not on infinite contracts!!!

    Also, compare the playing time-span of a golfer (at the top) and a footballer's. There is a HUGE difference. Lee Westwood turned professional as a golfer in 1993, the same year as Brazil's Ronaldo signed his first professional football contract. Ronaldo is now overweight and retired.

  • Comment number 38.

    post 15. "a footballer is paid according to how much the football club makes from them..." No they arent. Footballers are paid how much the clubs owners are prepared to pay, and in the world of billionaire owners who buy in for the fame and fun rather than the profit, wages levels are completely skewed. And dont forget how much we now have to pay to keep up with this.

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't feel particularly qualified to judge whether or not a club is paying their players the correct amount. I suspect many of us are not. I also doubt that public perception of the pay package is considered during player-contract negotiations. This might sound overly capitalist in these anti-capitalist times, but i trust that clubs have, in general, priced their players abilities according to their [potential] market value. I doubt the sugar daddies who lavishly fund their clubs do it with zero consideration of recouping their investment in the long run.

    But even if they don't care about getting their money back, who am i to stop them overpaying for a player? It's their money.

  • Comment number 40.

    There was a change made to the 8th para that I think has made the argument less clear.


    I wrote as follows;

    "There is an obvious case to be made that the distribution of wealth in the world is clearly insane. Many of those who attack the earnings of footballers, however, are in favour of differentials. They just feel that respect and the big bucks should go, in the recent words of one British politician, to those who perform “serious hard work.”"

    This to me is the point. To be in favour of differentials and yet still attack footballers' wages is the line I feel that is hard to support.

  • Comment number 41.

    33

    Yes, please. Can you clarify that you understand the difference between footballers having a, say, 5 year contract worth millions, even when you're a squad journeyman, and the golfer & tennis player to earn the same money who have to win to even get invited to a tournament, then win again to earn the bucks. Then continue winning......This is the whole crux of the debate and this is why people don't complain about the golfer and tennis earners - not because of their class. This is why I disagree with the article.
    Of course you could blame it on the papers I read or 'my like' if it's an easier debate for you.

  • Comment number 42.

    I really don't have a problem with what footballers earn because I don't contribute to their earnings as far as I know. In other words I don't go to matches and I don't pay to view on TV. However it seems to me that the more money that they earn the worse the behaviour gets which is unlike tennis and golf stars, OK McEnroe. A lot of footballers cheat by diving, elbowing and trying to get other players sent off. It diminishes the beautiful game and it didn't happen years ago when some guys went through their whole career without a booking and earned 15 or 20 quid per week.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think the secret lies in your love and passion of what your are doing no matter what. In the case of Messi it is football obviously. The guy seems to be honestly in love with his profession. He genuinly dedicates his five senses to football and his club. At a time when high profile footballers grab the headlines for the wrong reasons, Messi lets his feet do the job on the pitch. He seems very much content with his life-style, nothing dramatic, no over night-clubbing, drinking or partying. There is even, as onother great blogger ( I am somehow sure it was Phil McNulty) who once said about Messi: "It is perhaps more remarkable that in an age when many of his [Messi] peers seem vaingloriously obsessed by self-promotion, he carries out his acts of genius while wearing a look of guilt that suggests he's not entirely sure he should even be there in the first place." I think this fantastically sums up what Messi is made of.

  • Comment number 44.

    37.At 13:51 9th Jan 2012, Vox Populi wrote:
    ___________

    Two words: Wayne Bridge

  • Comment number 45.

    Some people here seem to ignore the fact that top tennis players and golfers earn the bulk of their living through sponsorship and appearance fees, not just via competition earnings and wins.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'm afraid that the reason for the huge 'wage inflation' of the past decade can be put down to one word - Agents. Suddenly 'the going rate' for a Prem footballer is £500k p.a MINIMUM. In the 90s - it was £200k. Why is that I wonder ? Agents have forced the price of labour up but I'm pleased to say that the bubble is bursting. At my club (in Div 2 aka 'The Championship') our leading players is on £750k per year. Why ? He's so far this season played 6 times and scored 1 goal. Wow. He thinks he's worth that because his agent tells him that. Of course who actually pays for the Agent - why the club of course. I don't quite understand why Man A gets advice from Man B but Club C pays the bill. How grand.
    As for the 'lenght of career' agrument - what a joke. A bit like saying to a Peruvian Miner - Now we'll only be paying you $5 a day - but the good news is, you've got a job here for the next 50 years !! Football is losing the goodwill of the nation - and Agents are the main culprits.

  • Comment number 47.

    This article seems to place great faith in believing that top footballers earning millions of pounds per year can somehow be saints.
    Sorry i dont buy this article at all. All this..isnt it great Messi just wants to play football..how great he's playing for charidee...
    Please no more of this sanctimonious hogwash. Top footballers in europe are being paid scandalous amounts of money, Messi included. To "give up some of their time to play for charity" (a PR exercise dreamt up by agents maybe?) is no big sacrifice. Just because we in England think the likes of rooney, Terry and Cole are parriahs doesnt mean we think the likes of Messi arent.

  • Comment number 48.

    44.

    Touche. Even Mancini thinks its disgraceful that he is earning thousands of pounds a week doing nothing and showing no desire to play or move to another club where he would play.

  • Comment number 49.

    Really interesting article, there's a good piece I've read about the state of finances at lower league and non-league level that is worth a read too...

    http://staggmag.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/fc-insert-club-name-here/

  • Comment number 50.

    If you turn the argument inside-out, 'who would be a Messi at Barca?', unless the rewards were stellar. A 1 million to one chance of making it. An injury at any time that can ruin it. A career that demands more than the body can reasonably take. It's true that Messi makes the millions today, but what about the 999,999 rejects that have nothing left of their dream. And Messi tomorrow, a past legend, but that won't pay the bills.

  • Comment number 51.

    It is only right that footballers are paid a fair chunk of the TV money clubs receive, as they create the product. Some are horribly overpaid, but there will always be anomalies considering how many professionals there are.

    A squad journeyman getting paid millions over a 5 year deal has worked hard to get to that level and probably played the game since he started school. He has earned that money and must have been a star performer somewhere to earn a move on big money to a team that won't even play him.

    He is being paid big money because if a top player gets injured, he needs to be ready and able to play at the top level. He has presumably proven he can do this already and as such he has earned that contract. If a manager decides not to pick him, he has every right to refuse to move. His loyalty quite rightly should be to his family first surely? His window for earning big money is small compared to the rest of us so you can't blame them - it's the club's fault for offering the contract.

    Professional tennis and golf players also do well even when they're not winning anything. The very lowest ranked tennis players on tours still make $200k - $300k pa for simply qualifying, and the average PGA golfer makes well over a million dollars. They're not pulling up any trees either and will make millions. But they have earned it via being good enough to achieve that level in a popular sport.

  • Comment number 52.

    Don't Spanish players get paid there whole wage at the start of each calendar year? To be honest i don't know the guy but Lionel Messi looks like he couldn't care if he was getting paid £300,000 or £30,000 a week when you see him playing. On the other hand hoorays like Rooney should wear there England shirt with a bit more pride (and i don't mean kissing the 3 lions badge when he puts a goal in)

  • Comment number 53.

    I would just like to say that it is refreshing not to read a journalist bashing footballers for their hard wages and yes UNLIKE most areas of life, you don't get to the top because of who your daddy is. If only life were sometimes more like football

  • Comment number 54.

    It's simple economics. How many people in the world or in England can become a nurse? Then think how many people can drive a car like Lewis Hamilton or play football like Messi, or throw an american football like Tom Brady. Because there are so few people who can do this the market obeys the laws of supply and demand. There is such demand for those with the skills that no others have that obviously the prices for them goes up. Football is a private business and so players will always be payed more than nurses.

    However what I would like to see is that all fines that players, managers and teams have to pay go to charities and other beneficial causes rather than being payed to the FA.

  • Comment number 55.

    I couldn't agree more with Tim about the class issue. Some people have a real problem with footballers coming from council estates and then earning millions. People who think like that clearly have their own issues that need sorting out, not footballs.

    People point out the badly behaved footballers as examples of why they shouldn't have so much money but if you take a cross section of any profession, lawyers, dustmen, doctors, retail workers, whatever, you're going to get a percentage who behave badly. The thing is some people love to see footballers behaving badly and the media know this so they pump it down our throats. There are plenty of examples of players doing lots of good with their money that doesn't go reported. And why would it be reported when people desperately don't want to hear it as it goes against their agenda?

  • Comment number 56.

    The problem I have with footballer wages is they are totally off the scale in comparison to club turnover - Man City player wages are 110% of turnover (they are not the only ones). Why should football not have to adhere to the same rules as any other business? The banks at one stage were making billions in profits, yet society feels (and rightly so at the moment) that the top people earning a few million in bonuses is wrong? This is when some players are earning £10million a year. Yet the banks provided employment to a huge number of society. Even a footballer on £5k a week earns ten times the average yearly wage in the UK. Footballers should never be compared to golfers - golfers earn every penny, if they miss a cut or get injured they don't get paid.

  • Comment number 57.

    It's unfortunate that the general tone of the comments on this blog is the dismay of how much footballers are paid. We know this is a sport where money rules supreme. I felt the need to comment as I agree whole heartedly with Phil's assessment of Messi. He's the greatest, yet plays with all the enthusiasm and desire of those trying to emulate him in the school playgrounds and parks around the world. It's credit to the man for being so grounded in a proffesion filled with such celebrities. His unassuming and modest nature is so endearing, I remember the moment he arrived at Hackney Marshes on his own last year (albeit from a helicopter!) and was shocked by the instant pandemonium that ensured.

    If ever further evidence was required for how grounded he is for someone widely recognised as the greatest it can be sought in an answer he gave a few years ago. When asked who the greatest footballers he has ever played with were, he instantly replied with "my brothers". It's no secret that Messi continues to enjoy playing 3 on 3 in the back garden against a team of his cousin in one of their fiercely contested matches, dating back some 20 years.

  • Comment number 58.

    @eduard_streltsov_ghost

    So you think we should turn capitalism on it's head and give huge wages to people who don't earn that back for their respective companies?

    What happens if we start paying doctors and nurses 200k a week then?

    A. The NHS would collapse over night
    B. Tax for yourself would go up 100,000 times it's current rate to pay for those wages
    C. The NHS would turn totally private and going for a check up would cost you 50,000 pounds
    D. People who don't really care about people would become doctors and nurses for the huge pay cheques, stay at it for a year and then leave to live it up in the sun

    Bit of an oversight on your part no?

    Your comment smacks of jealousy. These players earn millions of pounds through shirt sales and other means for their clubs and so are paid accordingly. Would it be fair if you earned your employer 50 million a year in memorabilia and got paid minimum wage?

  • Comment number 59.

    No8
    There is a inter break of 2 weeks in Portugal but due to cashflow issues many teams bring forward cup matches or play friendlies during this period.

    No52
    I dont know what the current situation is but Real Madrid used to pay players twice a year, in December and in June.
    Also their salaries are negotiated in net terms , so whatever changes that may occur in terms of tax for example are undertaken by the club in question.

  • Comment number 60.

    "Everyone has become a support structure to the teenage prodigy, the boy prince forced to carry the economic hopes of his entire family.

    It is clearly not right to burden an adolescent with such responsibilities."

    ----------------------------

    I do wonder whether this is the reason why so many Brazilian players burn out so quickly. Once that expectation goes, and you've financially supported yourself and your family for the rest of their lives what else is there? You don't really have the love of the game to fall back on, because it never existed. It becomes a soul-crushing endeavour to which you somehow extrapolate all meaning beyond financial stability (i.e. love, respect, admiration, success etc.)

    Its no surprise that if zed 15 year old makes enough money by the time he is 22 to live in moderate wealth for the rest of his life he is not going to want to achieve much else.

  • Comment number 61.

    Agree with the points about Messi- it's refreshing to see a player who genuinely plays for love of the game. The fact that he is insanely talented clearly has something to do with both his wages and his enjoyment- I think anyone would agree you'd enjoy doing something that everyone agrees you are the best at, because it feels good to be told you're the best. That being said, I'm sure he'd still play for peanuts etc. etc.

    As regards salaries- the market forces argument doesn't hold too much water when you consider the incredible proportions of revenue that clubs spend on wages. If clubs are spending upwards of 60% of their revenue on wages just to compete, then they aren't getting value out of their players. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, salaries have started to disconnect from the concept of value. Whilst a club such as Barcelona or Man Utd may well generate hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue, and therefore be able to afford salaries for players like Rooney or Messi, most clubs don't. Yet to compete, both in lower leagues in the push for promotion and then in higher leagues so as to stay up/get into europe, clubs are paying inflated salaries to players. Perhaps they aren't massively inflated in all cases, but the Wayne Bridge point is fair- he has never done anything to justify 90k a week and he never will, he simply does not generate anything either on the pitch or off it to justify that and there are plenty of other, less high profile examples out there.

    Unfortunately, unless clubs have some kind of salary cap imposed its going to be difficult to control- try telling someone earning 90k to leave their contract for 40k and see how far you get, and once the expectation of that salary is there, it distorts their demands elsewhere. For every player who just wants to play, there's another who wants the cash first.

    As for F1 drivers, golfers etc. I have to say that was just a lazy point- as others have pointed out golf and tennis players earn the money by winning and there is a lot less to go round if you aren't at the top. I don't think Heather watson or Jamie murray are cleaning up but I reckon emile heskey does alright...Formula 1 is different but here it has to be said market forces ARE actually at work- there is a limited pool of drivers talented enough to make it due to higher barriers to entry, and any team who has invested millions of pounds in developing a new car which one wrong move can see completely destroyed is probably going to consider a few hundred thousand per year a fair price to try and protect their investment. Even the most journeymen of F1 drivers is going to be elite, whereas, as the blog points out, anyone can pick up a football so there is never going to be a shortage of supply.

  • Comment number 62.

    58.At 15:25 9th Jan 2012, Ichi_1 wrote:
    What happens if we start paying doctors and nurses 200k a week then?
    __________________

    I don't remember advocating 200k per week for doctors and nurses?? Funny that, maybe you read in between the lines / or just plainly made something up??

    Based on the fact you made you a completely false assertion, I can happily conclude points A, B, C and D are therefore irrelevant.

    They may earn millions for their "companies", but others like docs, nurses, police etc save lives. Unfortunately (you probably can these days) you can't put a price on lives, so their "worth" is pretty small in economic terms. Point is that footballers are entertainers, hardly "core" to society, it's my opinion that other professions have more importance and the people who are under far more stress and scrutiny are underpaid and undervalued.

  • Comment number 63.

    In whichever sport, no matter the sporting body, whether it be golf/tennis tournament organizers, F1 team chief, football club chairman, none willing enter a contract expecting to lose from the contract. If Ashley Cole earns 100k per week it's because the chairman thinks he is worth that amount to the club. If clubs consistently pay wages above the value that can be derived from owning the rights to a player they will end up in trouble.

    There has been some defence of golfers pay arguing that it is merit based, that they are paid for winning, but I think you will find the same applies to footballers, when a league 2 footballer is on a premier league wage there is a problem but a footballer at a mid ranked premier league club will (on average) earn less than those at a top club and more than those at the bottom clubs.

  • Comment number 64.

    It certainly seems like what you say about Messi is true. Watch a game and see how after he scores, if it's as a result of a subtle pass from one of his teammates, he immediately turns around and faces and points at them. You see Xavi, Iniesta and Messi doing the same. Villa does it a little less and Fabregas does it least of all.

    Cesc has spent too much time in England and his instinct is to run individually to a corner and soak in the applause. Very un-barcelona like. We'll see if he's been poisoned with Rooney-ism forever or if it's just a habit that he'll be able to shed.

    I love it when Messi scores and then turns on a dime giving credit to the passer.

  • Comment number 65.

    njc874 - Footballers, at whatever level, are still on contracts and unlike golfers, don't have to shell out £1000 a week in expenses to play at their next event.

  • Comment number 66.

    A great topic, Tim, thank you.

    Unlike any other sport, football is or was a sport for the masses, there are several reasons for that.

    Back in the fifties, there was little wealth for the average family, the only game us kids could play outside of school, was street football, it cost nothing to play. There was nothing else, once our homework was done. It served many useful purposes, it gave us social cohesion, we engaged, in a way it taught us values, that would serve us when we became adults.

    Today I doubt that it exists on the same level, there is a form of wealth, even amongst the poorest areas in comparison to the 1950's. There are certainly many other activities that kids can engage in because the state and various community projects, have provided the opportunity for them.

    People are certainly different today, than back then, working class society does not have the bond that was once present. Football helped to hold us together it was an outlet for us.

    Football has turned itself into a different sport, it is no longer a grass roots sport because it does not have to be, it generates wealth, it is a business. The purpose of football and the benefits it could bring to society have been lost. Who is to blame for that? I'd say the people because they allowed it to happen and they fell hook line and sinker for the salesman at the door. Business saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.

    What you write of Tim, reflects societies changing values. Of course there will always be the Messi's but sadly very few will have his values and be like him.

  • Comment number 67.

    Tim Vickery for BBC Chief Football Writer. Phil McNulty OUT.

  • Comment number 68.

    Basically footballers get stick because of their wages for one reason - jealousy. Working class kids doing well for themselves just doesn't sit well with a lot of people and I'm sure people who are critical of footballers and their wages have no idea how difficult it is to get into that position and how talented/dedicated a player needs to be

  • Comment number 69.

    This topic always gets me in hot water - until I point out that no-one would pay a significant portion of their salary to watch doctors or nurses etc. do their jobs.

    Football is an entertainment industry - if anyone deserves to get paid from the massive pot of money the sport generates, it should after all be the players who create the spectacle in the first place.

    As so often seems to be the case, society preaches one thing, but (crucially) pays for another.

  • Comment number 70.

    68.At 16:05 9th Jan 2012, simonalex100 wrote:
    Basically footballers get stick because of their wages for one reason - jealousy. Working class kids doing well for themselves just doesn't sit well with a lot of people and I'm sure people who are critical of footballers and their wages have no idea how difficult it is to get into that position and how talented/dedicated a player needs to be
    ____________________

    As opposed to 7 years of university? Or being a nurse etc?

    Nobody is questioning the dedication of certain players or their talent. Some people are questioning the talent of players like Wayne Bridge, who are happy to sit around playing golf and earn 90k per week.

    Football wages seem to be disproportionate to economic conditions, inflation, basically the real world! It has nothing to do with class.

  • Comment number 71.

    Back in 2005, who gave a toss about bankers' salaries, really? In 2010, we decided we wanted to hang the bankers for earning the money they do. What changed, and what all the posts above are missing (IMO) is the role of behaviour, or at least perceived behaviour.

    Whether it is bankers ruining the economy whilst drinking their bonuses or footballers shouting & swearing at a referee, each other, the crowd, a sky sports cameraman, there are these acts and types of behaviour that get the public's goat - especially in these times.

    Football pay has to be contract based, as unlike those other sports, football is about the team performance above and beyond that of any individual. If Messi, for example, were to take the majority of the spoils as well as all the plaudits after each game for Barca, it would hardly do wonders for the team spirit and arguably performance. I know this is a simplified version of performance based pay but I still feel it would be flawed for these same reasons.

    Anyway that's a side point really. The main point is that, sadly, Messi is the exception to the rule rather than the 'industry standard'. This is NOT the case in golf, tennis, F1. Where are the obscenities, diving/play acting, shouting, swearing, disrespecting, racism, violence, aggression, scandal, prostitutes in those sports? There will be examples but few and dar between. This is the reason why footballers come under scrutiny for their salary and while they (in general) keep acting up as spoilt gits, long may this scrutiny continue. Why this behavioural issue exists is a whole other question and maybe there is a class factor after all, but not in the way the author meant..?

    Not enough like Messi.

  • Comment number 72.

    The comparison with Tennis, Golf and F1 is entirely valid.

    Although there may be hundreds of footballers earning top money and only 24 F1 drivers or 50 tennis players earning similar levels, there is a vastly greater pool of young people playing football and therefore to "make it" in football is just as hard, if not harder than in Tennis or F1. I would ask the detractors on this blog how many young drivers on the Karting circuit do you know? Now think how many young footballers playing school/local league football do you know? Now multiply in the number of nations which are competitive. To "make it" in football not only do you have to rise to the top of a very large domestic talent pool, you then have to compete with an international talent pool that dwarfes any other sport. Practically every sizeable nation produces footballers and for most of these countries the pinnacle of footballing ambition is to play in the Premier League. Therefore the PL players are genuinely the cream of a very large crop and deserve their wages. There is a lot of class snobbery by middle class journalists about "vulgar" footballing wages that is not applied to other sports.

  • Comment number 73.

    Whilst I'm no expert in financial matters it does strike me that those who resent a footballer's wage are usually those people who would moan about almost anything. A good proportion of people get too preoccupied with what others are doing/earning and forget to enjoy their own lives. This tends to skew your/their thinking and create an even bigger chip on their shoulder. There have been plenty of excellent responses to explain a footballer's salary - you don't have to like it but it's just the way it is and certainly not worth comparing to doctors/nurses etc etc.
    Also - again I may be wrong - it's my belief that our only knowledge/understanding of a players wage is what is 'reported'. In true tradition, we will only hear the 'headline' figure - say 200k per week. This is the figure paid, is it not, assuming they are playing and winning? It is not a flat salary 52 weeks of the year and cetainly not what they are paid if injured... insurance plans will be in place to cover this. Typically people see a big 'headline' number and hysteria ensues!

  • Comment number 74.

    If we take football to be a business first and foremost, then there is something wrong with the higher paid player's salaries, or even all players salaries.

    Many clubs are in a severe state financially, yet they continue to be seen shelling out vast sums for players and their wages. I don't know what a club should be paying their players but i do know that if their income cannot meet their overheads there is going to be a major problem.

    Years gone by the clubs of course earnt money but the players saw little, although it was still a good living for most players. All that has happened, the roles have been reversed but the finances are still not balanced.

  • Comment number 75.

    When F1 drivers are living the "Monaco lifestyle" of wine, women and fast cars it is considered by the media to be "Glamorous". When Footballers live the "Cheshire lifestyle" of beer, women and fast cars it is vulgar.... double standards!

  • Comment number 76.

    Football is entertainment. It pays better than being a soldier. I'm sick of seeing "Soldiers and footballers should swap wages". I respect soldiers for having a job, and of course top footballer money is obscene to us regular joes. But use some common sense.. Entertainment is where the money is, movie stars, singers anything that's in the spotlight brings in the big £££. So it's only right the stars profit, as without them there is nothing. It's not their fault the business is worth as much as it is. It would be churlish to suggest otherwise.

  • Comment number 77.

    Dedication to be a pro footballer is soooo overrated. Some blogs act like footballers put their life on the line or something. It's because they have no dedication that they are pro footballers in the first place. That's why no footballer (ish) has an A level, because they just played the sport they loved and to heck with anything as dedicated as - I don't know - education! In general terms natural talent makes a footballer and good coaching makes a team / tactics.
    Am I jealous of the cash they earn - hell yeah. Is this the source of my frustration - no. I just hate it when I people infer the money is fair reward for their efforts. That is just pure rot. Also - don't pedal the 'it's a short career' argument. It's not if they are as dedicated as some suggest. What about management? what about coaching? what about scouting? - Probably too much effort than kicking a ball around. It might need some dedication...

  • Comment number 78.

    For those of you who like a bit of Political philosophy with your sport you might have a look at Robert Nozick and his famous "Wilt Chamberlain argument". Essentially Nozick (1970s political philosopher) argued a highly paid basketball player (Chamberlain) earned a fair wage because each supporter was making a fair exchange of a few cents a year in return for the entertainment they received. We purchase Sky Sports because we think it's a fair deal for our entertainment (otherwise we wouldn't purchase). Sky pay Manchester United a sizeable chunk of that fair deal in another fair deal and Manchester United pay Rooney a sizeable chunk of that revenue in another fair deal. We are all making fair decisions with no coersion and therefore it would be wrong NOT to pay Rooney the wages he earns.

  • Comment number 79.

    72.At 16:16 9th Jan 2012, charlie1571 wrote:
    ___________________

    I'd like you to explain how it is "harder" to make it in football than in tennis? The levels of monetary reward is far greater than it is in tennis. How may footballers earn more than andy murray for example? Not to mention the fact that murray (or any tennis player) does not get a 52 week contract either.

    You talk about international talent, yet it goes the same for tennis or F1. If anything, the limited number of spaces in F1 means it's far far harder to get into than football.

    And I'd argue messi (and a lot of others) are hardly thinking they want to play in the pinnacle of football that it the prem league. The "snobbery" is down to players like bridge who have down very little, yet some how command 90k wages or players like nasri who are intent on bankrupting a club with wage demands just so that he can have a new ferrari each week.

    As Londoner points out, there are a huge number of clubs that are plunging themselves into debt just by accepting wage demands of players. Look at the situation in La Liga.

  • Comment number 80.

    78.At 16:31 9th Jan 2012, charlie1571 wrote:
    _________________

    Which is why I don't pay for sky sports, download things, etc!! And would advocate many others to do so.
    And for this reason, this is why Sky Sports / Music Companies hate the internet!! LOL

  • Comment number 81.

    Funny, people are talking about a players economic value as a valid reason for 200k a week.

    Isn't football wallowing in debt?

  • Comment number 82.

    Tennis is played competitively at junior level by (and admittedly i'm guessing the numbers here) what a hundred thousand young people globally? (and i think that may be an over-estimation). Football is played by multiple millions in almost every country in the world. Therefore to get to the top 1000 out of millions is as impressive -if not more impressive- as getting to the top 50 out of a hundred thousand. F1 is competed in by tiny numbers (relatively) and in very few countries (how many drivers come out of Africa?).

  • Comment number 83.

    @ 80. At 16:36 9th Jan 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote

    And you are entirely free to do so and therefore step out of that economic "contract" he would cost you nothing and you would receive nothing from him and therefore you and he would be happy... and fairness would be maintained

  • Comment number 84.

    80.At 16:36 9th Jan 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:

    Which is why I don't pay for sky sports, download things, etc!! And would advocate many others to do so.
    And for this reason, this is why Sky Sports / Music Companies hate the internet!! LOL

    ____________________________

    Three possibilities here

    i) You don't watch football/listen to music at all
    ii) You only watch football at the stadium/listen to music live
    iii) You illegally download all of them

    Points (i) and (ii) would mean that you cannot possibly have a wide enough knowledge of football (or music) to comment on anything to do with them as at most you'd be limited to what you occasionally see on the pitch in front of you.

    Point (iii) would mean you're illegally accessing that content online.

    And have now bragged about that. Online.

    Using a traceable name.

    Now it's incredibly likely that nothing will come of this, but I have to say even to do so suggests a cranial function which renders anything else you have said utterly redundant.

    LOL.

  • Comment number 85.

    Excellent blog and good debate.

    If someone has already said that pay largely reflects market value then I will agree with this.

    What most forget is that the attrition rate of prospective footballers is horrendously high: only a few make it. Careers are short, most don't make the big bucks and many supplement their income in other jobs. People have forgotten what it was like pre-Bosman when these guys were totally 'owned' by their clubs and very successful managers such as Jim McLean at Dundee Utd used to keep their best young players by sticking them on long low-paid contracts while refusing transfer requests and allowing them to make a better living.

    I have no problem with players like WB sticking out their contracts. If clubs offer the deal they can hardly complain about a player sticking to it and seeing out the terms of the contract offered by his club. Few of us work for the love of it and there is no moral high ground to be gained for criticising players who do this.

  • Comment number 86.

    81. At 16:37 9th Jan 2012, gbell wrote:

    You are right, clubs are wallowing in debt, but that isn't the players fault - it is the clubs. They are using debt to speculate on future profit (which for most will never materialise) but they are gambling that a certain player or players will bring them improved league position and improved financial reward.

  • Comment number 87.

    78

    Good comment - and would have to agree in a free market. However, the mega rich (usually crooks or oil money) who now own the big clubs use them as a status symbol. Therefore they pay stupid money as they can afford to - NOT because the market demands it. This is why wage inflation is going through the roof in football - so, unfortunately, your philosophical example doesn't apply as the 'fairness' no longer exists.
    By the way, this also applies to the T.V money. If only the T.V money was distributed - the wages would be far, far lower. Again, it's the mega rich owners that drive it up disproportionately - this is what frustrates and annoys people.

  • Comment number 88.

    #85

    He's covered by the Data Protection Act so you can settle down to a panic!

  • Comment number 89.

    Good read Tim. Messi looks like he's still playing football in the street with the other boys in Rosario. And those boys could well have been Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, etc. Don't really know, but would we have found Carlos Reutemann mixing with these boys? Those black and white barrio posters are much classier than the glitzy F1 colour in my book.

  • Comment number 90.

    84.At 16:43 9th Jan 2012, fergie_is_my_homeboy wrote:
    And have now bragged about that. Online.
    ____________

    Unless you are a firm believer of the internet police, you will notice that I in no way freely admit to any illegal act. You can in fact pay for internet tv etc.
    You can read between the lines, but that doesn't prove anything!!

    Or it implies a youthful brashness?

    Your post did make me laugh though!

  • Comment number 91.

    #88
    Meant #84 of course!

  • Comment number 92.

    Footbal...The only industry in the world where a black man from a shanty town in Cameroon can become the highest paid. If only the rest of the world was as meritocratic as football, we can only dream.

  • Comment number 93.

    @ 87. At 16:45 9th Jan 2012, wordonstreet wrote:

    _________________________________
    Agreed that mega rich drive up wages but not sure that undermines Nozick's prinicple, its just that instead of it solely being about millions of individuals paying for footballers to entertain them, it is a few individuals with millions paying to be entertained and or purchase a status symbol. If they are willing to pay for it in a fair exchange then the point arguably stands.

  • Comment number 94.

    91.At 16:49 9th Jan 2012, Rob04 wrote:
    #88
    Meant #84 of course!
    _______________

    Yeah I forgot about the DPA as well! D'oh!

  • Comment number 95.

    92.

    Agree entirely!

    It was essentially what I was trying to say but you put it much more succinctly and eloquently than me!!

  • Comment number 96.

    wordonstreet - more and more I'm getting the feeling you're not much of a football fan! You obviously have no background in the game or appreciation of how competitive it is if you think it doesn't require dedication to be a top player. These guys have to make a million sacrifices growing up and most of them can't have the normal teenage life the rest of us get. I fear you are dreaming!

    If you make it as a professional you need to train and act as an athlete the same as any other. The sensationalist tabloid gutter press will of course give you anything but that impression. Some clubs actually educate their young players to a decent level as part of their development, eg at Barcelona. But all the same if you're dedicating your career to football, you just don't have the time to achieve A levels.

    eduard - it's the clubs' fault and no-one elses if they can't balance their books. It's astonishing to suggest anything else. A player and his agent will always push for the best deal as is right and proper, that's why it's called "negotiation".

  • Comment number 97.

    90.At 16:49 9th Jan 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:
    Or it implies a youthful brashness?

    ______________

    I remember when I was youthfully brash rather than the kind of grumpy a*se who writes letters to points of view about the shoddy camerawork on countryfile and reminisces about when yorkie bars used to be 30p

    ah to be young again....

  • Comment number 98.

    Worth pointing out here that football is one of the hardest professions to excel in - almost everyone has the facilities to play ,unlike motor racing for example; it certainly isn't just a game for the monied or privileged.

    To get to the top you have to be better (which means working harder) than the other hundreds of boys in your school, and then in turn better than most of the kids in your region, then be one of the top in your country, etc etc. To be best in the world means you have put in more effort than 265 million odd registered players in the world.

    As a level playing field there aren't many other sports can compete with that. You want them to earn less? Refuse to pay for Sky, refuse to pay for a season ticket, refuse to watch your team until prices come down. But don't begrudge them their achievements in getting to the level they are at!

  • Comment number 99.

    96 - it's not that I'm not a fan - I am. I just don't think many understand true commitment in sport. There are olympians who demonstrate true commitment - not footballers. I appreciate they work hard to achieve, but let's have some proportion. I have no sympathy for any kid who concentrates only on football and no time for education. Their fault if they fail.

  • Comment number 100.

    96.At 16:54 9th Jan 2012, stevie_bhoy wrote:
    __________________
    If you make it as a professional you need to train and act as an athlete the same as any other.
    ---------
    But you seem to suggest that they make more sacrifices / train more etc than say a doctor? Is this true? Comparatively speaking I don't think they do, and having been a youth team player at a professional club, I decided to focus on studies.

    It's an easy way to look at it that the player is entirely "innocent". To a large extent I think an agent is due a large part of the blame. Like I said before (as bitter as it sounds, it's not intended to be, more a touch of realism) when the football bubble collapses it will be interesting to see the consequences.

 

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