And so the English Premier League has seen a record – so far the total amount spent since the summer on transfers has hit £1,265 billion, thrashing last years’ record. But is it sustainable, and do you think there is a degree of hypocrisy going on? Often the same people who celebrate the latest transfer news, bemoan pay rewards forked out to bankers.
Trevor Sinclair – a skilful player in his day, who perhaps didn’t quite fulfil potential – was quoted by the BBC as saying: “There is so much money in it for a reason: supply and demand.”
He continued: “People demand to see the Premier League.” But why? Mr Sinclair said: “It has to be the players, they are the ones that make it happen.”
Sure, but is Paul Pogba really worth £89 million? Does he really deserve £220,000 a week – which is his reported salary?
Maybe it is jealously speaking.
Take Wayne Rooney, he is paid £13 million a year, which works out at around half a million a match. On August 27th, against Hull he passed the ball 50 times, that’s around £10,000 a pass. (Please sir, can I be paid £10,000 a word?).
Looking at things from a straight economic point of view, Rooney and Pogba are worth their salaries if the money they bring into the club from their appearance is greater than the cost to the club of employing them.
The same argument applies across the board – tennis players, basketball players and the CEO of a bank are worth their fees/salary if they create more revenue than they cost. To put it in economic terms, if the marginal physical productivity of their labour is greater than they salary/fees, then they are worth it.
But there is another way of looking at it?
Are such fees necessary?
If Rooney’s salary had been limited to £1 million a year, would he have stopped playing football. Would he have been less of a football player?
And if football (to misquote Marx) is the opium for the masses, or even the modern day equivalent of the gladiatorial arena of Ancient Rome, then it does seem a bit annoying that despite all the money flooding into the Premiership from TV rights and sponsorship, a cost of a season ticket at the Arsenal is more than the cost of a holiday in Barbados.
It does feel as if football has seen an arms race. Financial rewards enjoyed by footballers and their agents, and coaches, although probably not the driver of the team coach – keeping heading north faster than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedish striker now strutting his stuff at Manchester United, flying home. But has the fan’s enjoyment improved?
Yet while football fans celebrate the transfer of Paul Pogba, or Ibrahimovic or David Luiz, and dream of glories to come, the world reacts in horror to the latest pay pocket announced by a bank, or indeed any FTSE 100 company.
Neil Woodford, the UK’s most successful fund manager has come out in support of a proposal by Tory MP Chris Philp, for shareholders to have a binding vote at annual general meetings on executive pay.
But while he supports the proposal, Mr Woodford said: “Regrettably, this view and approach is not shared by many in the UK investment industry and I believe the problem is getting worse.”
No doubt, many footballer supporters who are shareholders in listed companies would vote down a pay packet for the boss. But how many of those same supporters would vote down the latest transfer to their club?