As leftwards inclined commentators want to discuss equality, let’s post today the difficult case. If excessive pay is to be condemned, taxed penally , or banned, as they say we need to do, what should we do about footballers’ wages?
The Premier league is a UK success. It earns millions in tv fees from around the world. It grows side businesses making and selling shirts, socks, dvds and other merchandise. According to newspaper reports, the top players are paid £5 million or more, the odd one even more than £10 million a year. Surely the left will condemn anyone on £250,000 a week? Isn’t that part of the problem of inequality they complain about?
You can make a case against excessive footballer pay. It is used to tempt foreign players into the UK premier league, limiting the chances of native talent to play at the highest level and to get better from the pressure of top matches.
It requires clubs to charge high prices for fans to buy the merchandise and go the games. On a leading club site today the team shirts are advertised at £54.99, the DVDs at £14.99, the childrens’ shirts at £34.99 and socks at £9.99. These are hardly competitive prices for the textiles involved. A ticket to see a match costs £30-£50 for each game, and a VIP package for a single game is £200-£500. If you are on the minimum wage trying to follow your club, going to the games is way beyond your means.
Leading footballers are said to be a role model for many young people. Yet so often these role models are dragged through the media for their imperfections – too much alcohol, a whiff of illegal drugs, too many lovers, breaking their marriage vows and the like. Some say top footballers cannot handle all the cash they are given, and seek to abuse the power money can buy.
Some of the players find ways of arranging their tax affairs to limit how much the UK Treasury takes from their pay.
So why is there no continuous cry to stop all this? The left recognises how popular football is. They understand that UK fans like having some of the best talent in the world playing regularly in the Uk league and cup. They turn a blind eye to the pricing and the tax arrangements, in order to keep the competition and the people here.
There could be a rule that a UK side could only have one or two foreign players in it, as County cricket sides used to do. That would lower average player wages, and give local talent more of a chance to shine. There could be tougher enforcement of a rule that if you play here and are paid here you should pay tax on every penny here. There could be a requirement that clubs make more seats available for people on low incomes at cheaper prices.
None of these happen, because the left seems to think different rules apply to top footballers than they want to apply to top bankers. Tomorrow we will look at the case of excessive bankers’ pay. When it comes to football, more commentators on the left seem to like the global market and the show and flashiness it brings, turning a blind eye to its imperfections. Would the UK be a fairer and better place if we regulated and limited footballers’ wages? How would the left propose it be carried out?