Premier League Footballers Do Not Make Too Much Money

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.

Premier League owners do have major financial problems.  But, it’s from self-inflicted debt not from paying footballers too much money.  They may make more money in one week than the average person earns in one year, but they also generate much more money.  If players making excess money annoys you, stop following football.  It’s your tolerance, your spending and your viewing habits that fund it.

20 thoughts on “Premier League Footballers Do Not Make Too Much Money”

  1. “Salaries are not the problem. It is transfer fees”

    absolutely agree…im not saying it will fix all the issues,but a transfer fee cap is a good start.

  2. I’m sorry, I disagree. While they provide entertainment, you dont need to make 125K a week to do that. Most professional athletes are over payed premadonnas. The guys in the lower leagues should get a cut of that type of money but that would require the big clubs to acually share the money.

      1. Oi danny, shut up you cocky little inbred wasteman.
        Shakira does have a point.
        Footballers have waaayyyy to much money and they still want more. They aren’t grateful. They don’t usually donate the money to charity.
        They don’t even play the game properly.

        Think before you insult someone’s opinion.

  3. No Shakira,

    The salaries are not the problem. Most of these guys do not make that much money, and their careers could end with the first bad tackle they receive. The problem is with transfer fees. But you can’t just put a transfer fee cap, because in the end the only person that really hurts is the smaller clubs who will lose players for too little money. Some sort of transfer cap is needed, but it needs to be on two fronts and it would be complicated. Clubs shouldn’t be able to demand more for a player than the entire worth of the club itself, and clubs should be limited in how much they can spend in each transfer window. It is not the wages that is the problem for smaller clubs, it is the fact that they can’t afford the 30 million GBP for one single player. Limit the transfer fees, that is what needs to happen.

    1. No David. They are all overpaid.

      Someone in the army could get shot. That could end his career. Therefore should all army personel be paid that much? A policeman might be assaulted while on duty? Therefore should he be paid that much.
      My dad is a paramedic, he has to spend his days lifting people his back is messed and there’s diddly squat the doctors can do about it. He also has to attend crashes on the motorway an extremely dangerous job. I could go on.
      Footballers do recieve a hell of a lot of money in comparison to 95% of other careers. The same of these can be applied to film stars etc. It’s all disgusting how much they get paid.
      You can’t make the point that a bad tackle might end his career so he needs the money. So many other people have dangerous jobs and they actually work for it.
      Yes, I’m not saying they don’t work hard with all the training and what not. But when you weigh it up against other people’s jobs you should ask yourself who’s career might end with the slightest thing. How is that fair? Ask yourself that?

      BishopRed: You can’t assume all “rockstars” live a life of drugs, sex and rock and roll. Yes, it was far more popular back in the 60’s, 70’s but in comparison to these days it’s far smaller than you’d imagine. Basing your argument on a stereotype, created by the massive glam/ hair metal era where drugs were a big scene yes.

      1. They’re paid what they’re paid because they provide entertainment. That’s the business. You offer the public a bunch of guys playing a game in a stadium and the masses show up to watch it, and pay for it. On top of that, a media broadcaster pays you to show the game on television and an advertiser pays to have their logo splashed all over the stadium. Why? Because now instead of just 30,000 fans watching in the stadium, they now have 1 million people viewing their product. More often than not, the value of the franchise increases over time. Sometimes it doesn’t; that’s the risk. These aren’t stupid people running these businesses. They’ve calculated the risk of investing money vs. what the payoff would be. If it made more sense and a higher return on investment, the ownerships would put their money in the bank and earn 1%. Obviously, paying Rooney millions of dollars to play pays off. I’m sure you would not want to see me playing football. It’s just like anything else; there are the elite in their craft and then there are the solid professionals. Beyond that are the part-timers and observers. And, you can’t compare what they do to what people do in their everyday jobs. No one is going to pay to see an officer patrol the streets or a fireman put out a fire because they are boring to watch. However, production companies put the same product on television dressed up with intriguing back stories and drama…and then procure advertisement. It’s all the same, but in a different form. Footballers are in the unique position of offering a skill that 99.9% of the population can’t do, but a great percentage of the 99.9% are willing to pay to watch.

  4. I agree with much of this, but it is worth disambiguating what “makes too much money” means. Here are some different senses to that phrase:

    “makes too much money compared to their contribution to society.”
    “makes too much money compared to their effort level compared to the effort level of those who make much less.”
    “makes too much money in the controlled economy in which they operate.”

    There are more, but these are the important ones here I think. Often enough when people criticize the salaries of athletes and celebrities, it is on the basis of the first two criteria. Of course, that’s true of a lot of jobs (not that it makes it right). The first is a clear issue of social justice, the second is a bit trickier since people generally do not hold it absolutely (we think quality of effort matters, so there is some confusion between that and the first.)

    I think tyduffy is exactly right, though, that in the controlled football economy (and this goes for all major sports), athletes are not overpaid. The entire economy of the game rides on overcharging us the fans, and this works because we the fans are willing to pay.

    That said, I don’t think the interest in a salary cap is driven entirely (or even largely) by this worry about footballer salaries. I think the more pressing concern is the way that players are never initially distributed equitably (no draft), which means that money is crucial to building a world class club. Meanwhile, being world-class cycles more money into the pockets of world-class clubs. When coupled together, the hope is that a salary cap might make drive down transfer fees and wages enough to produce additional competitive balance. (I do not, however, favor salary caps, I think more radical changes to the wealth distribution in the league are in order).

    1. You’re not overcharging the fans if they are willing to pay. Those to things are mutually exclusive. You can go down to the local park and watch a match for free. The last thing an ownership wants is empty seats. If they really wanted to be in the business of “overcharging” they would charge $100,000 for every seat. Then no one would show up at the stadium to watch the match. But that makes no sense obviously. That’s why they settle in at some price that fans are willing to pay. You either pay for it or you don’t, but you can’t complain about being overcharged if you were willing to pay the price, otherwise I would say you’re foolish.

  5. Tyduffy: Good points. It’s always caught my attention that the second an athlete’s salary is released, it’s often met with derision. At the same time, someone like Harrison Ford can demand $20 million for one movie and people don’t seem to have the same level of dismay. People complain about the price of tickets, but will spend that much for a concert.

    I’m not going to defend athletes’ wage scales, but I do find it interesting that others who make obscene amounts of money through “trivial diversions” don’t seem to suffer the same scrutiny.

    On top of that, rock stars seem to be more self-destructive with their money than other entertainers. Athletes get abuse for their massive egos and shows of excess, but people see to accept “Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll” as fait accompli. The list of musicians who used their success to fund self-destroying behaviour is long, but also gets passed off as part of Rock n’ Roll folklore.

    Good points, but also worth noting that the “real world” doesn’t have an equitable distribution of talent either. Imagine if the least successful law firm got first pick of the summa cum laude grads from universities! As a matter of fact, in the capitalist bastion that is America, I’ve always found it ironic that their iconic pastimes employ such a socialist practise.

  6. Footballers have one of the most demanding jobs in the world IMHO. How many times a year do they get a real vacation between cups, internationals, and league games? They spend most of their time from 3 years and up practicing and never stop until they are in their early 30s. That’s why you get your ronaldinhos and adrianos that lose joy and want to focus on having a good time. In short, they deserve the money.

  7. If we paid based on contribution to society, garbage men would live like kings.

    The important difference being, the vast majority of the population can do that job. Easily. And society isn’t better off if people qualified to perform more difficult jobs settle on the occupation of garbage man because the pay is better on the basis that someone ignoring supply and demand has deemed the job a bigger contribution to society.

    Premiership players make huge coin because their labor is scalable. How many people can a garbage man service in a week? A few hundred, maybe a thousand or so tops? A Premiership player? 30-60 thousand live, sometimes millions upon millions more on television one to two times a week? It’s better to be worth a few cents to millions than a several dollars to hundreds.

  8. Good points. I think there’s reason for some righteous indignation about how professional sports, as a business, screws its fans; but I’ve never understood why people have focused there anger on the player salaries. Maybe its simply because they are the public face of sports, but if anyone deserves a slice of the money pie, it is certainly them.

    My only disagreement is: “They did not work as hard as you.” Maybe for a few players, but a vast majority probably work their ass off to make it to the top. If they do make it to the top, they have a short, high risk, period in which to make money. Frankly, you’re probably better off growing up aspiring to be a garbage worker then aspiring to make a living in professional sports.

  9. What about the amount of effort they put in to get to where they are today, they probably started working when they were 4, and they probably had to work at training when they were also at school. I play for a Pro Youth team, and it’s harder work than most people think, keeping your diet right, keeping fit, keeping attitude right and getting homework done in time for school!

  10. @Hank and Gregarious: To your comments of ‘a vast majority probably work their ass off to make it to the top’ and ‘they probably started working when they were 4’ – You know who else ‘worked their ass off’ from an early age: people like surgeons and doctors. They get themselves into huge amounts of debt, study hard for years, and at the end they earn money helping sick and dying people. Nurses work their asses off every day and like Matt said so do Paramedics, Fire-fighters put their lives at risk to help others yet you think the footballers have had it hard ‘training’. If you say that training is much harder than studying for exams (personally I don’t see this as I have both trained to be a dancer and studied to get a degree) then why are professional gymnasts and divers paid so much less than footballers, they have surely been training from a similar age.

    In the past I’ve heard of arguments such as they promote team work, they’re good role models and they provide entertainment. In actual fact the entertainment we receive from them is news that they pay for prostitutes, sleep with other team mates girlfriends and are allowed to get off with just 7 years after mowing down two young children while drink driving . Great role models we’re paying for there.

  11. It’s not just athletes that make more money than they deserve. it happens all over in the financial world, in investing, property, etc etc. It’s just the way the world works. It’s not fair, but nobody ever said it was. in reality, all it takes to get rich is a little determination, and a lot of luck.

    Do the owners of these clubs deserve the money THEY make? They’re just sitting on their asses watching. I have no problem with athletes making big money. The reason being, at least they hustle every day and strain themselves.

    Actors…NOW actors…make WAY too much money. If children, animals, rappers, and wrestlers can do it…you shouldn’t be pulling $20m a film to ‘play pretend’.

    But again…life is about luck and determination. Some have both, some have only one, and the rest of us have neither. So we log on the internet to bitch about it…

  12. I agree with almost everything you have written apart form about the players being dumb many are in actually fact very smart. You just got the odd very stupid footballer on amazingly high wages and don’t know what to do with it so either go out gambling and on the piss!!!!
    but you do get alot of footbllers that are in fact very smart Paul scholes,Ronaldiniho and many lower league footballers because they have to be smart incase they do not make it as a footballer or an unfforttunate tackle that may leave them with nothing because they can not play football again.
    Tbh alot of them deserve the money they get, they work 6 days a week and start from a very young age from 4 days aweek from the age of about 11. They have to sacrifice alot of there childhood to something that may or may not even happen.They deserve it!!!

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