Premier League footballers make extraordinary salaries. The common implication from this is that they make too much money. Players are the scapegoat for the endemic money culture that has invaded football. It’s held as common sense that salary caps and other punitive measures are the only way to save a game gone wrong. This sentiment is wrong. Players do not make too much money, and here are a few reasons why.
They provide entertainment. Premier League players are not as smart as you. They did not work as hard as you. They may not be as valuable to society as you believe that you are. However, they are more athletically gifted than you. The fundamental difference between their job and yours is that people are willing to pay inane amounts of money to watch them. Players are the talent. They generate the money they receive, no matter how extravagant it may be. To fault them for that is misguided jealousy.
There is no trickle down effect. Player wages are a convenient excuse for owners ramping up prices for tickets and merchandise. It’s not true. Prices are driven by supply and demand in the market. You don’t pay £45 or more for a shirt because clubs have outrageous wage bills. You pay that because clubs decided that was the optimum price to fleece you, while not inhibiting you from buying the product. Arsenal’s tickets are not absurdly expensive because of the players, but from a limited supply and enormous demand. Capping player wages will not solve this. It just will alter where the money goes.
If anything, players don’t receive a large enough share. The Premier League is probably the most successful league financially in the world. Yet, players don’t make that much money, particularly when compared to American sports. Manchester United has a wage bill of £100m. They brought in £212m in revenue. Less than 50% of the revenue went to the players. In contrast, the NFL guarantees players receive roughly 60% of league revenue. In the NBA and MLB that number, though not guaranteed, is probably higher. A top Premier League player making £150,000 per week sounds excessive, but there are mediocre MLB pitchers who make more than that, in a league with nowhere near the financing.
Salaries are not the problem. It is transfer fees. Money does limit competitiveness for smaller clubs. However, the problem is not that every club can’t afford to pay Fernando Torres £7m per season in wages. Most clubs can afford to pay an elite player. They just can’t afford to pay £30m per season to buy him from another club. A salary cap will not fix that.