Viewpoints: Is a salary of £300,000 a week too much?

Gareth Bale and Florentino Perez, holding Bale's new Real Madrid shirt

Related Stories

After a summer of speculation, Welsh forward Gareth Bale has finally completed a world record £85m (100m euros) transfer from Tottenham to Real Madrid. He will earn a reported £300,000 a week after signing a six-year contract. But are sky-high footballers' wages too much?

Bale's new contract means that he will double the yearly salary of UK Prime Minister David Cameron within just a week of work.

In return Real Madrid will be gaining one of the best players in the world, as they look to return to the summit of European football and win their 10th European Cup.

But at a time when many supporters struggle with rising ticket prices, are footballers' wages too high?

Steven Powell, policy director of the Football Supporters' Federation

Start Quote

Steve Powell

At a time when income from broadcasters and sponsors has never been higher, tickets are in orbit”

End Quote

Gareth Bale's new employers Real Madrid will - if reports are to be believed - be paying him more than £250,000 a week. That's £13m a year. Put another way, the Welshman will earn in just seven days what many of those who'll follow him in the stands at the Estadio Bernabeu earn in an entire decade. Nice work if you can get it.

While the cost of watching Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in La Liga hasn't quite scaled the heights of big-time Premier League clubs yet, ticket prices have been rising rapidly in a country where most clubs are skint after decades of overspending. Unemployment in Spain afflicts one in four, rising to more than one in two for young people. And you thought it was bad enough here!

Steven Powell

  • Arsenal supporter for more than 44 years
  • Director of policy at the Football Supporters' Federation

As former Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney said: "Football doesn't have an income problem. It has a spending problem."

Too right. At a time when income from broadcasters and sponsors has never been higher, ticket prices are in orbit, yet record numbers of clubs are drowning in a sea of red ink.

Sky-high player wages put upward pressure on ticket prices. If you've paid an arm and a leg for a ticket and you see somebody playing for your club wandering around the park like love's young dream, apparently totally uninterested in getting his finger out and putting in some effort, this adds to an increasing sense of alienation amongst many supporters.

Football needs to keep ticket prices down, indeed cut them, if it is to remain the people's game.

Gareth Bale's contract: £85.3m over six years; £300,000 a week; £42,857 per day; £14.22m per year
Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association

Start Quote

Clarke Carlisle

The football industry is a multimillion-pound industry worldwide, so the purveyors of that industry should reap the benefits”

End Quote

Footballers' wages are dictated by the market. Football, like any other industry, conforms to supply and demand. The football industry is a multimillion-pound industry worldwide, so the purveyors of that industry should reap the benefits.

Especially when you're talking about the upper echelons of football, [those guys] really are the minute percentage. And just like the minute percentage of actors receive [and] musicians may receive millions upon millions per album [or movie], the minute of footballers will receive the best wages according to the income of the industry.

My opinion is that the high wages may well create a disconnect between the fan and the player because there's a distinct lack of comprehension about the figures, myself included. I'm a former professional and I never escalated to the levels of what our current professionals earn at the high end.

So when you think of £20,000-£30,000 a week, that's beyond my comprehension, [and] when you factor that out by 10 and say £200,000 or £300,000 a week, that is way beyond my comprehension.

Clarke Carlisle

  • Former defender for clubs including Burnley and Queens Park Rangers
  • Chairman of the managing committee of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA)
  • Due to be replaced following retirement from football at end of 2012/2013 season

But so is the income of £50m a movie, so is the income of Mr Bill Gates, so is the income of many other people. The thing that makes footballers' wages such a controversial subject is that football is tangible to every human being, whereas being the founder of Microsoft or Apple, or one of the greatest actors the world has ever seen, is not.

Football is a sport that has become an entertainment industry, where the consumer demands a standard of product but they consume that product to be entertained. It's no longer a sport.

[A footballer's career is also more fragile], the average career span of a footballer is eight years. A musician or an actor's [career] can be anywhere between a one-hit wonder and a full 30, 40, 50, 60 years in the career. Football at a maximum is between 16 and 20 years.

Karen Gill, granddaughter of Bill Shankly and honorary president of Liverpool Football Club Supporters' Committee

Start Quote

Karen Gill

[The wages situation] seems to have spiralled out of all proportion and seems utterly absurd and ridiculous”

End Quote

Like most logical people, you realise that because [football is] a business, and [owners] make a lot of money out of football players, [it] then becomes like a vicious circle [of increased wages].

But it seems to have spiralled out of all proportion and seems utterly absurd and ridiculous, especially when people working very, very hard can barely scrape a living. It's obscene almost, and especially over the last five [to] 10 years where it seems to have become more and more ridiculous the amounts of money that people are willing to pay them.

It's almost provocative, in a sense, when the whole world is in crisis [that] you've people in the entertainment business who are just making so much money - and obviously that goes the same for other groups of entertainers.

We were saying yesterday that there should be a salary cap and somebody even suggested a wage according to performance - all of these are just suggestions but it shows that people are thinking about how absurd it seems and that something has to be done about it.

Karen Gill

  • Granddaughter of legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly and author of The Real Bill Shankly
  • Patron of the Spirit of Shankly and AFC Liverpool, honorary president of Liverpool Football Club Supporters' Committee

Sometimes ticket prices go up but facilities for fans get worse or are not very well maintained. Everything becomes more expensive for supporters, it's ludicrous really.

My granddad was so passionate about football that he would have played for nothing. He would have managed for nothing. He always said that you just need enough [to get by], he wasn't into luxuries or anything like that - that's the way he'd been brought up.

He believed that people who really wanted to play should feel the same way. Obviously there were arguments about money then as well but that passion to play is the most important thing.

Some players nowadays aren't really that interested about the game as a game.

Dr Peter Dawson, lecturer in economics at University of East Anglia

Start Quote

Peter Dawson

Superstars command higher salaries because these individuals are in scarce supply and not because they are more deserving”

End Quote

Is Gareth Bale worth £250,000-£300,000 a week? To the average man or woman on the street the answer is likely to be a resounding no.

However when considering the earnings of individuals we should take account of supply and demand. In the case of supply factors, superstars (whether this be in sport, music, movies) typically command higher salaries because these individuals are in scarce supply and not because they are more deserving than, say, teachers or nurses. In general, the more unique the skillset the individual possesses the higher the potential salary.

Demand factors are also important. Why would a firm, or in this case a football club, be prepared to part with this kind of money? The obvious answer is that they will expect to receive some kind of return on their investment.

Essentially Real Madrid, and football clubs more generally, believe they will be more successful and their brand more lucrative (through merchandising sales, advertising and sponsorship deals) with star players such as Bale in their team. Overall, the combination of big demand and limited supply is what generates such high salaries.

Dr Peter Dawson

  • Research in the area of applied micro-econometrics, in labour economics, education economics and particularly sport and leisure
  • Member of the Royal Economic Society and the International Association of Sports Economists

Much has been written about Bale's contribution to Tottenham in the number of crucial goals he has scored and the number of assists - and his performances in European competitions over the last few years have undoubtedly increased his market value. At 24 years of age he is still relatively young (most footballers reach their peak around 28).

Real Madrid have a history of signing high-profile players (Galacticos). Bale has been purchased by Madrid to deliver on-field performance but his potential contribution off the field - and the revenue streams this is likely to produce - has also contributed to the size of the transfer fee and salary Madrid have willingly paid. Clearly Real Madrid are looking to Bale to achieve an impact similar to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Start Quote

Pete Jenson

[Madrid] were top of the latest Forbes football rich list and Perez sees the acquisition of Bale as keeping them there”

End Quote
Pete Jenson, Spanish football expert

Now he is officially a Madrid player, the launch of brand Bale can really begin in earnest.

Madrid missed the opportunity to show him off to the world during Sunday's midday kick-off against Athletic Bilbao in what would have been prime-time in Dubai, from where their shirt sponsor Emirates would have been watching.

Emirates are now counting the days until January when they hope Madrid will play a lucrative friendly in La Liga's mid-winter break against them, with Bale as the main attraction.

"I think it is a commercial operation," said Real Madrid's former sporting director Arrigo Sacchi earlier this summer. "I think Madrid, through their sponsors, have decided to buy a British player."

Football and the working class

Are football's traditional links to the working class being undermined by sky-high wages, £50m transfer and match tickets up to £126?

BBC Consumer asks a fan, a fansite owner and a finance expert for their views.

Madrid certainly saw how, when Neymar signed for Barcelona, the Catalan club signed a new deal with Panasonic just days later.

The audiovisual giant was already one of the player's sponsors in Brazil and Bale will cede 50% of his image rights to the club. They will want him to keep pushing up the 512m euro income they registered at the end of the 2011-12 season - figures that keep Madrid inside Financial Fair Play regulation and prevent too many questions about an estimated debt of close to 600m euros.

They were top of the latest Forbes football rich list and Perez [Florentino Perez, the current president of Real Madrid] sees the acquisition of Bale as keeping them there.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1151.

    I'm Tiger Woods and I think its disgracefull that footballers earn so little for kicking a ball about, they should learn to hit it with club and maybe then they might make some real money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1150.

    I can't take issue with this, the market for footballers is pretty efficient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1149.


    "Football is a mindless and monotonous game for mindless and monotonous people."

    What an arrogant and beligerant comment.....nothing like a bit of old fashioned stereotyping eh ?

    I bet you think 'fun' should be banned altogether.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1148.

    not for me it isn't
    but then I am special

  • rate this

    Comment number 1147.

    Yep the cream will always get the biggest salary, I think the real issue here is how football clubs are allowed to operate with so much debt, any other business would be foreclosed. I've no idea how they can fund this purchase when they have so much debt. Obviously its down to who they are accountable to, i.e. are they a private entity owned by one individual who underwrites the debt,

  • rate this

    Comment number 1146.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1145.

    The salaries are just a reflection of the number of supporters and the money these supporters are prepared to spend on tickets, television subscriptions and merchandise.

    In a capitalist society, supply and demand define the boundaries, not individual opinions on a few salaries. If people were content to watch a local team play in one of the lower leagues, such salaries would disappear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1144.

    A salary isn't a measure of moral worth, it's a payment to acquire services. So comparing a footballer to a nurse is simply stupid - it misses the point.

    Tax deals that allow the player to spread his earnings over an extended period seem legitimate to me. Most of us spread our earnings over 40 years plus and pay tax accordingly whereas most players have less than 10 years of good earnings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1143.

    Mr Bale 300K p/w benefit Scrounger increased by 3 % p/a Public Sector 1 % to 3 % increase p/a . Hard pressed private sector worker %0 increase & up to 40 % tax then Ni and the removal of Chid allowance and Child care. Question who is worth what ? how come its the worker who is the whipping boy in this sort out this disgrace before you bleat about a footballers this is where the real scandal is

  • rate this

    Comment number 1142.

    Mr Bale is not the criminal here. He has every right in a free market economy to get what he can.

    I'm guessing he will soon be raising million for various charities anyway.

    Might as well give him the knighthood now too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1141.

    But of the lives Footballers save!

    How their behaviour both on and off the field sets such and amazing example!

    How they fill young children with totally realisable and utterly attainable dreams.

    How they send out the message: 'No! You don't have to work hard at school, just kick a ball around and you'll be a Millionaire, or a Multi-Millionaire!

    The Passion! The Glory!

    Yes, worth every penny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1140.

    Look at it like this - Can anyone on this forum do what Bale does? No!

    Could he do what most of you do? Probably!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1139.

    You'd think that at that price they could afford better standard & more even of writing on back of his shirt

  • rate this

    Comment number 1138.

    Sports men/women are in the entertainment business and earn according to the entertainment division they are in. Its completely disconnected from any 'normal' employment type and cannot be compared with those 'normal' peoples.
    Personally I'm more interested in why Football Companies are treated differently by HMRC than other Companies

  • rate this

    Comment number 1137.

    Comparing Bale to someone on benefits is stupid. Taxpayers forcibly pay benefits and get nothing in return. Football fans voluntarily pay players' wages and get 90 mins of entertainment a week. If you don't like it, get rid of your tv (because people are paid huge salaries to appear on reality rubbish, 90% of output), don't buy anything (celebs used in promotion) and don't watch sport. Easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1136.

    @1121. I can tell you they do indeed have these same discussions in North America, with sports over there taking a similar path years ago. Now the average family can't afford to go to more than a few games and in some sports it's become all about the often repugnant stars at the expense of both team spirit and fanbase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1135.

    This is how the world has gone crazy, all that money for kicking a ball about, i blame the fans and merchandise purchases for paying the silly money for the items which support these silly wages, HOW much would it be to see a match if they were not paying these wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1134.

    Is a salary of £300,000 a week too much? hmmm hmmm ummm yeah. you can buy a large island in less than a year. Do i agree with these wages? Absolutly not. Will I expect the government to do something about it? no. this is private sector, none of our money goes towards it exept our sports subscribtion and tickets. What I worry about these wages is if the footballer and club pays tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 1133.

    "I am on a 6 figure sum as my salary & I know i am underpaid
    All you lot complaining get second jobs
    In 24 hours a day, I sleep 4 Hours work 18 at times more & have only 2 hours to myself"

    Jackanory ..Jackanory .. dum... dum!
    Can't be working hard if you sleep 4 hours a day .... insomniac then are you?

    p.s. S.Cowell 'earned' £80 million last year .. and he CAN'T sing, just insults!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1132.

    936. DeeplyConcerned
    Why aren't people ranting at the true criminals of society - the likes of Bill Gates.

    that's a bit unfair, he own's a company that has generated Billion's, Employed 1000's and kickstarted the Information age. He also is giving most of his wealth to charity. You can't really compare someone like Gates, Jobs etc who have created wealth, employment, employee tax revenue


Page 6 of 63


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.