Ben Pinkney1 Comment

MONEY IN FOOTBALL: JUSTIFYING OBSCENITY?

Ben Pinkney1 Comment

As Ted DiBiase once said: everyone's got a price, everyone's gotta pay. Here's Ben Pinkney.

It’s a familiar dispute; not only within the football community but especially outside, that there is too much money in football. This question is easily answered for the vast majority, I use the word vast as I couldn’t think of a more collective word that defines quite how universal this opinion is, and states that there is indeed far too much money in football. Regardless, I wanted to see whether a case could be made for football and its grotesque abuse of money through a period where the rest of the world suffered irrefutably. 

This argument has, to some extent, been re-fuelled due to current prices being paid for English stars within the current market [Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson – Liverpool, Phil Jones – Manchester United], in addition to a climate which has seen seven new entrants into the top 10 record transfer fees paid in world football, from the past three years [Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid, Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Barcelona, Kaka – Real Madrid, Fernando Torres - Chelsea, Andy Carroll - Liverpool, David Villa – Barcelona, Javier Pastore - PSG].

One of the enduring arguments at this stage is that, in fact, inflation distorts the real value of players, and can we truly say with conviction that higher fees are being paid today? The Transfer Price Index is a concept based on the Retail Price Index (RPI) as a measure of true value (CTPP – Current Transfer Purchase Price), it accounts for both universal and football inflation to be considered allowing for comparisons to be made throughout different era’s. The process clears this up to definition, although it provides little solace for the cause, and has found that considering obligatory factors, indeed more money is being ploughed into football today. This will come as no revelation to the majority, though provides clarity to somewhat degree.

Dispute arises not only from player value, but furthermore demand for players had filtered through to the individuals themselves with wages growing exponentially over the course of the past decade. For instance, highest earners, from an annual income over the past year are Lionel Messi; £27m, Cristiano Ronaldo; £24m, Wayne Rooney; £18m.

Yaya Toure, one of the Premier League’s newest additions not only earns £250,000 a week but could also profit from £1.5m depending on club performance next season. This is an employee at the very height of a demanding worldwide profession, yet it still encourages indignation among civic opinion.

This increase of money in football can be, largely, accredited to the rapid rise of commercialisation and television rights for football, on a global scale over the course of the last decade or so. The commercial rights the Premier League alone for the period of 2010 to 2013 were purchased for £1.8 billion, in addition to the league boasting combined revenues of over £2 billion over the 2008/2009 season - any individual can recognise the implications of such a valuable industry not only in this country, but to a wider audience, too. This attracted wealthy benefactors in the form of the Glazer and Venky families, Roman Abramovich, and more recently Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, particularly in England. Whereas wider Europe has seen multimillion pound takeovers of Paris Saint-Germain and CF Malaga in only the last twelve months.

Firstly, and this isn’t I realize any sort of justification; as much as doing something wrong is vindicated because “he did it first” - nevertheless when you compare salaries within football to the wider spectrum of sports, it might not be as obscene as expected - for instance, of the top 10 earners in world sport last year, only 3 were footballers; albeit considering commercial deals. 

The principal defendant for footballers can be established due to the fact that they play a similar role to that of professional entertainers [singers and actors]. It was a sentiment echoed by the Professional Footballer’s Association Chief Executive, Gordon Taylor, last year stating that “I don’t think anybody goes to see a film and complains about Brad Pitt’s wages, or a potential Oscar winners’ wages, and the same if you go to an Elton John or Take That concert.” 

The world of football has evolved, and upholds an obligation to be considered alongside the company of Hollywood and so forth as a major form of entertainment. Football has grown exponentially over the past decade, principally in England, becoming a particularly significant industry toward the UK’s GDP. Thus, the football industry itself is considered a sole market, and those salaries within are set by the marketplace – it remains simple business practice, in that salaries are considered by means of supply and demand.

Footballer’s and sportsmen’s earnings are generally built upon, to a large extent brand endorsements and advertising. This forms the basis for my subsequent two points. These endorsements occur on the absolute reflection of that person’s success within their respective sport. For instance Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry’s arrangement with Gillette in 2007 was an arrangement made with individuals at the top of their respective field - their achievements, amount of time sacrificed practising, skill and reputations as the best allowed them to be considered. I didn’t see Adam Chiles of Tooting and Mitcham FC being lined up for the next one? (Sorry, Adam)

[It’s generally considered that, as a footballer, you have to spend 10,000 hours practising, minimum, before even being considered in a professional capacity]

One of the major defendants in favour of this ostensible disregard for money can be found in the expectation that fees spent will be recovered by merchandising sales and shirt sales, best exemplified by Ronaldo and David Beckham, both rationalized in merchandising terms. Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid for £80 broke all player transfer records, however 18 months later and the Spanish club had claimed sales of branded shirts and other memorabilia saw them recoup a substantial amount of the 25-year-old's transfer fee. The move itself had even promoted the following response from former United Captain Roy Keane:

"It's just the way it is. People talk about Ronaldo going for £80 million – I look at other players and think Ronaldo's cheap for £80 million. He's the best player in the world. Footballers are classed as entertainers and if you look at any industry the top people get the top money."

Over the course of his six year contract, Ronaldo is expected to be a profitable investment. This is even more astonishing considering the fact that this is irrespective of on-the-pitch performances.

Finally, I’d like to point out that the wage structure in England may not be as inequitable as first thought. If you look through some of the more scrutinized wages throughout world football, they are all supported by a consistent level of superior performances, over a period of years, usually peripatetic through a number of leagues or countries. Footballers wages are utterly reflective of quality, thus a look only one tier down from the Premier League demonstrates an average wage of £36,000 per year – a far cry from that of the few at the top and a practice not dissimilar those in any other industry in the world. 

There would have been a time, not long ago, where if I had been writing this, the finger of blame may have been pointing, Uncle Sam-like, directly toward every individual who owned a sky subscription (you certainly do, still, consign a fundamental position as to where we see the football industry today) however, at the highest level of today’s football industry this is no longer the case, and certainly makes anywhere close to a defining factor  to football clubs as it once did, it must be highlighted that this point should remain isolated to the uppermost echelons of football, such as Manchester City and Chelsea, funded by wealthy benefactors who, most probably care very little. 

Football, financially may be obscene in empirical terms, however it can be considered footballers are paid according to their economic worth. The market and employers demand as such, and will receive respectively. Who is to say that Ronaldo is not worth, hypothetically speaking, £8 million per annum if he were to remunerate £12 million in that same season? It makes perfect business sense.

Considering this, Nicholas Bendtner’s on £52,000 per week at Arsenal, so I’m sorry for wasting your time, I’ve been completely wrong.

Remember: This is not an endorsement.

To read more from Ben, head over to Trevor Benjamin's Hotel Room. Follow him on Twitter @benpinkney42

 

IBWM is open to everyone to share their stories. If you'd like to submit an article on any topic, please contact us.