A complaint I often hear from people is that it is somehow morally wrong for footballers to get paid vast sums of money, for example £200,000 a week, to kick a ball leather around a field of grass, when there are jobs ten times more important the get paid a fraction. For example I cannot imagine the local bin men getting paid that much, but I know who I would rather live without. The blame however does not lie with the football clubs signing the big cheques. For them it is a very sound business move to pay that sum of money, since a good player can return them more than their money back if the team can win certain competitions (they get a cash prize) and in merchandise sales. Merchandise is an important one, because the football club is a brand and they can make a lot of money just by becoming well known and selling lots of T-shirts. It's not unusual for football clubs to be earning around £500m a year, and teams like Manchester Utd for example, only make about 25% of their income through the sale of tickets, another 25% through TV rights, and the remaining 50% via other sales. So the benefits to Man Utd of buying and keeping certain players, could be worth millions in the sale of mugs and shirts, and would more than compensate for the weekly costs of keeping him in mansions and Ferrari's.
It's got nothing to do with right and wrong, it's a simple equation of spend £1 make £2. It makes complete sense and I don't blame them for it one single bit. The real question is, how on Earth can the clubs make so much money from hiring these players? Where does all that revenue come from? Well that money is all coming from ordinary people like you and me. Every person that pays a Sky Sports subscription, buys a replica shirt, goes to a pub to watch a game, buys a newspaper to read about the team, or basically in any way spends any time, attention or money on football or something related to football, he is supporting the stupendously high wages of the footballers.
Where people spend their time and attention, is where the money is made. Why is so much food sold all over the country? Because people think about food probably at least 3-4 times a day. They have their attention on it and so they spend their money on it. Youtube for example, has made an entire business of just getting people's attention and then selling that attention over to advertisers. So what we really need to look at, is why do people put so much more importance on kicking a ball of leather around compared to real-world issues like, combating corruption, organised crime, economic prosperity, health and education. It's not difficult to see why really, and that is basically those things are difficult to understand and uncomfortable to think about. It's a lot easier to read about the latest referee scandal on your daily commute and think about the game you watched last night, than it is to consider how to combat the insidious rot of corruption that is literally bringing some countries to their knees.
I'm not really against football to be honest, I quite like the game and I'll occasionally play or watch a bit of football and be entertained by it. Games are important and people should be entertained, nothing wrong with that. However I think we need to reshuffle our priorities a bit. When more people have got more opinions about the England squad selection for the next major international competition than they have about their own government's policies, something has gone amiss. So don't blame the football clubs or even the footballers for their silly wages, blame the millions of people paying their wage bill, the football fans. And before we get all high and mighty over the silly men watching their silly game, think about how much money, time and attention gets spent on make-up and that probably out-ranks thinking about or working on solving world poverty so we're all at it really.
(Published on 17 May 2016)