A wage cap in football

In a recent BBC documentary in which Lord Alan Sugar (kind of) tackled the financial problems in football, it was decided that the amount of money that a footballer earns is the main financial issue for football clubs. Sides such as Portsmouth (FA Cup winners in 2008) and West Ham (FA Cup runners-up in 2006) have both paid out high wages in pursuit of glory and, while they may have got it in the short-term, with turnover falling, the wages became too much to bear, with both sides being forced into a change of ownership and both now plying their trade in the Championship. Both sides have had to, and continue to, re-build.

To help pay the wages, clubs increase ticket prices, obtain lucrative sponsorship deals and, as is common in the modern game, receive vast sums of money (loans) from rich owners. A top-flight football club’s finances are tentatively balanced – one kind of income diminishing, or even vanishing, could make one expense unbearable.
The increase in wages isn’t exactly a new trend – since 1961 (when the maximum wage was abolished) the average weekly wage of a footballer has risen from £20 to £33,868. There are now players earning above £200,000-a-week in the English Premier League, and it is common for clubs in the top half of the league to pay even the most average of players at around £60,000-per-week. If wages continue to rise like this, it surely won’t be too long before we see the first £1 million-a-week player.
Of course, like transfer fees, wages don’t indicate a player’s worth; clubs will pay the amount they are happy to or can afford to pay and players (or rather, agents) will try and get as much money as they can. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Clearly, there’s a certain morality issue here but no one can really blame a footballer for taking more money – or trying to get more money – when it is obviously available to them.
You can blame the clubs to a certain extent as, once one club gives a player an obscene amount of money, other players are going to think they can get that amount too and, eventually, it all spirals out of control. You could also blame the people that run the game, be it on a worldwide level or national level, as they should, for the good of the game, be looking over the club’s shoulder to check that their finances are up to scratch and can therefore afford these wages. That’s not their priority – clubs should be able to run themselves without intervention from FIFA, UEFA or The FA – but it’s not something that football organisations can just brush away and say ‘it’s not our problem’.

‘Not my problem’
The trouble is, you can’t just impose a wage cap and be done with it. Players have mortgages, bills and wives to pay; their lives are structured around their earnings, just like the rest of the working population. I’m going to assume that footballers budget, or get someone else to budget for them; I can’t see Wayne Rooney sitting in front Microsoft Excel on a quiet evening, if I’m honest, but to take away a large chunk of his income straight away would surely cause him and his family problems as they struggle to pay for their £2.8 million house and god-knows-how-many cars.
A wage cap would have to be slowly integrated into the sport. One idea, then, would be for youngsters entering the sport to only ever earn a certain amount a week. This would mean that certain players would fall under a wage cap and others wouldn’t but, as time passes, those that earn obscene amounts will eventually retire, while clubs could be advised to lower their wages as much as possible right away.
There will of course be problems, mainly the fact that there will be quite a large wage gap, even between players at the same club. But again, by the end of process, wages would become standardised across the league, or maybe even across the world – although a system would have to be devised relating to a league’s income.
Players could earn more with more years in the game, i.e. experience-related pay, but even then their wage should be no more than a certain amount. For clarity’s sake, I’m going to suggest £50,000-a-week as being a ‘reasonable’ wage. It’s still obscene that a person can earn that much in a week, but I don’t think many fans would have to much of a problem with that sum when you consider a top-flight club’s income. And this, of course, could just be a starting block – the maximum wage could be lowered later on if need be.
People inside the game, and some outside of it, argue that the clubs have huge incomes and, because the players are ultimately the people who make them that money (without the players, there isn’t a football team), they are the ones who deserve a fair portion of the cash. To a certain extent, that’s true, and I don’t expect footballers to earn a ‘normal’ wage (although that wouldn’t be insupportable, would it?), they should just earn a ‘reasonable’ wage.

I think it’s fair to say that Stephen Ireland has too much money

And in any case, the initial income of a football club is sometimes a kind of effect of wages, as prices of tickets and merchandise rise to help fund the players – lower wages would mean lower prices, which would equal less money coming in but less money going out. It’s a vicious circle.
There’s also an argument to say that there would be a negative impact on the league on the whole, worsening the appeal of the Premier League both for the players and, therefore, sponsors. Without wanting to sound too old-fashioned, I think most fans would rather have players at their club who want to be there instead of those there purely for the money. Obviously the fact that they’re there purely for the money isn’t a problem in itself as the player could still work hard and give his all for the team – it’s when that effort diminishes that there’s an issue. The point is, a player should want to come to the club because of the club, not the money on offer. Plus, the appeal of the Premier League seems pretty insignificant when a club begins to struggle financially or, if the worse comes to worse, go into administration. 
There are legal issues with a maximum wage – which was the main factor for the abolishment of the original rule in 1961 – but something, without a doubt, needs to be done. The plan outlined above isn’t perfect and I’m sure financial experts (in case you haven’t guessed, I’m not one) will pick the bones out of it.
But the current scheme of allowing clubs to pay whatever they want for a player is extremely flawed, both in a football and morality sense. When a club throws caution to the wind and pays over-the-odds for players, that is of course their own fault and most clubs do have their own wage structures to prevent financial problems.
Yet still, no one appears to be taking the blame. No one appears to care that footballers earn more than they deserve and no one is there to help when a football club ruins itself under the burden of player wages. There maybe isn’t a perfect solution, but the situation is just going to get worse unless something is done.

Champions League final ticket prices are indefensible

Fancy going to the Champions League final? That’ll be £300, please..

Just as a side-note: it had to be lions, didn’t it?

“In everything that we do, football must always be the first and most important element that we take into consideration. Football is a game before being a product, a sport before being a market, a show before being a business.” – UEFA’s first of ‘eleven values’, which are listed on their official website. 

It was announced yesterday that, in order to be at Wembley for the Champions League final on 28th May, you will need to pay around £150. Yes, that’s one-hundred-and-fifty pounds for what is essentially a couple of hours of entertainment. The general public could be forced to pay up to £300 to go and see the crowning of the eventual European champions. Fans of the two finalists will only have to pay £80 each, and both finalists will be allocated 50,000 tickets. But that is still eighty pounds per-person. And that’s forgetting about the £26 booking fee, or “administration fee” as UEFA have decided to call it.
The international governing body, FIFA, have come in for a lot of critiscm recently regarding the way in which they run the game but it is UEFA, this time, who are concentrating on revenue rather than what they should be focusing on. It is quite clear that the governing bodies of football are not thinking about the fans. They are barely even thinking about the sport. The beautiful game that we all love to watch is being tainted by the very people who control it.
The UEFA director of competitions, Giorgio Marchetti, was quick to defend the high prices. He was quoted in The Guardian as saying “when you compare it to other events, we don’t think that the Champions League final is overpriced. We do not want to squeeze every single penny out of the market”.
That last sentence really riles me, and I’m sure it annoyed every football fan across the country and probably across the continent. By setting such obscene prices, squeezing ever single penny out of the “market” is exactly what UEFA are doing. Ticket prices are high enough in this country (paying over £50 to go and see the club your support and love is simply unacceptable) but this is a new level of obscenity. This is taking advantage of fans who, let’s be honest, will be so desperate to get to see this final live that they will, inevitably, pay £300 to get inside Wembley.
Michel Platini
That price, though, isn’t the end of it. UEFA justified the £26 booking fee (or £36 for those outside of Europe) by saying that there were “costs involved”. What are these “costs”? Printing? Laminating? A holding fee? Postage? Unless the tickets are gold-plated and have a holographic image of Michel Platini doing a little dance, I can’t see how UEFA can defend this price. How can anyone possibly justify such an obscene sum of money for what is, essentially, printing costs and putting a thin piece of material in an envelope?
The news of ticket prices did come on a particularly bad day for football and its leaders as FIFA attempted to make English football fans pay to watch the World Cup, while UEFA wanted the European Championships to become pay-per-view. Thankfully, the European Court ruled against them, but this is yet another example of the powerful rulers at the top of the footballing ladder taking advantage of the little people down at the bottom. Fans are exploited in every way possible and this will be shown when 11,000 Champions League final tickets go on sale in the coming weeks and, undoubtedly, 11,000 tickets will be sold. The section of football fans who are lucky enough to have that sort of money, and be able to spend it on such things as a football match, will, of course, snap up these tickets and will be singing “Que Sera, Sera” in no time, and I don’t begrudge them for that.
What I do have a problem with, though, is the fact that UEFA are actually defending this. Marchetti explained that, presumably because Michel Platini bemoaned the lack of children at last season’s final in Madrid, “some tickets from children [were put] at a discounted price”. Marchetti stated that there was a discount of “50% for the child”. While this may be technically true, the fact of the matter is that, for a child to go the match with an adult (at a “discount” price), it would still cost £338.
Of course, UEFA will defend this pricing by saying that they will put more money back into the game. I, personally, cannot see this happening. Members of UEFA will line their own pockets with the money that will be made from the selling of tickets, although I would suspect that the owners of Wembley will receive a proportion of the money eventually made, which will help with some of the debts that are yet to be fully paid off.
Quite simply, this justification isn’t good enough. Many football fans are becoming disillusioned with the sport and it is no surprise given the way that the governing bodies rule. UEFA should be setting an example to European clubs who already out-price many loyal fans. Marchetti suggesting that the ticket prices for the final are OK because these are the prices that are being charged nowadays doesn’t sit well with me and many other fans as those sums are overpriced in the first place.
Everyone knows that football is a business nowadays. Football isn’t a sport before being a market, a show before being a business.” The people at the top of the game, in setting these record-high prices for the final, are squeezing every single penny out of said market. The sad fact of the matter is that football fans can’t do anything (or, rather, won’t). The 2011 Champions League final will be a sell-out and UEFA will label it a success. The most annoying part of all of this is not the prices, not even the poor attempts at justifying the prices, but the fact that fans can’t do anything about it.

Why Charlie Adam is worth at least £10 million

For the so-called “bigger clubs” in football, transfer fees mean very little in these modern times. Manchester City can afford to go out and pay £30 million on an average player because their owners can afford to spend hundreds of millions in the pursuit of that Holy Grail: the Premier League trophy. Liverpool are, in some respects, in the same boat as City, as they can afford to spend a reported £20 million on Ajax forward Luis Suarez: a player who has torn the Eredivisie to shreds in recent seasons but is a slight risk given the history of players coming from the top Dutch league to the top English league.


Blackpool, on the other hand, cannot afford to throw away money and that includes selling players for under-valued prices. In total, the Tangerines have spent £320,000 this season, all of which comes from the transfer of Matt Phillips from Wycombe in late-August. Charlie Adam, Blackpool’s captain and talisman this season, was signed for £500,000 in August 2009 from Scottish giants Rangers after a successful loan spell at Bloomfield Road. The Scottish midfielder is now the subject of a transfer-tussle between his club (or rather, Ian Holloway) and a few reportedly interested Premier League clubs, including Liverpool.
The only sticking point, it seems, is the fee of the potential transfer. “If they are going to offer me £4m, then that is insulting” says Holloway, and he’s right. Adam may be in the last year of his contract but that doesn’t mean that Blackpool have to sell him on the cheap. Holloway continues “I think they are wasting their time because we don’t need to sell him at the moment.”
Aston Villa are the other team reportedly interested in capturing the signature of 25-year-old Adam but their offer was supposedly only £3.5 million at most. Obviously, if Blackpool don’t reach an agreement over the fee then Adam would be able to leave the club on a free transfer when his contract eventually runs out, which would be detrimental to Blackpool both to their team and their finances. But Holloway is right to request more money for Adam; he’s right to dismiss Liverpool and Villa and ask for some “respect” in the matter.
Adam’s performance against Sunderland on Saturday was a clear indication as to how talented the Dundee-born midfielder is. His range of passing was exceptional throughout (see chalkboard below) and, while some passes may not have quite found their intended target, the fact that he is looking to play the pass shows great ambition and great drive. Also, if Adam were in a better equipped team, his passing ability would be used to better effect. At Villa, for example, Adam would have the chance to spray balls out to the wings to either Marc Albrighton or Gabriel Agbonlahor, while Darren Bent, who got off the mark for his new club on Saturday, would benefit massively from the supply line that is Charlie Adam.
Central midfielders that can pass as well as Charlie Adam can do not boast transfer fees of under £5 million; they are worth much more than that. Adam is one of the most creative players in the league and whoever acquires his services will have signed a fantastic architect of attacking football. For a deep-lying playmaker his ability to score goals isn’t bad either, with sixteen goals to his name last season in the Championship and four so far this season, all four of which have come from the penalty spot.
Adam’s passing has been key to Blackpool’s success this season along with the sheer work rate that players such as DJ Campbell and Neal Eardley have exerted in the Premier League since August last year. Adam has been at the heart of Blackpool’s attacking play this season, shown by the fact that he has made four assists so far in 2010/11, the same number assists that David Silva has made for Manchester City and one more than Raul Meireles has made for Liverpool. Adam has been particularly influential against teams that Blackpool really need to beat in order to stay up, such as teams like West Brom who, amongst others, are going to be in the same sort of position as Blackpool come the end of the season. Against West Brom in November, Adam was again the creator; his cross-field passing to the right-wing (see chalkboard below) started many attacks for Holloway’s side. Adam also scored a penalty in that game to give Blackpool an early lead.
Adam has all the qualities of a player worth at least £10 million, so why are Liverpool and Aston Villa (‘bigger’ teams by all accounts) offering Blackpool an under-valued amount for a player still relatively young and therefore still has the potential to grow into a fantastic player? Holloway himself says that “I believe that Charlie is shining and his star will only shine brighter”, and he’s correct. At twenty-five Charlie Adam could become the versatile, creative star in the Premier League that Holloway clearly expects him to become.
The midfielder has now allegedly handed in a transfer request, but Holloway will still be reluctant to let him go. The only niggling point on Adam’s transfer is the length of time left on his contract and the amount of money that Blackpool paid Rangers for the player. Many would argue that, as Blackpool signed the player for relatively cheap in today’s market, Holloway should happily accept a £4 million offer, or even a £7 million offer as is now being reported, as this would provide Blackpool with a big profit. But that doesn’t mean Blackpool should let Adam go for anything less than £10 million; in today’s market (quite rightly described as “ridiculous” by Sir Alex Ferguson) Adam is at least worth as much as Southampton teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, possibly as much as £15 million. This money would possibly then enable Blackpool to go out and buy a few decent replacements for Adam as they strive to stay in the Premier League.
Clearly, no human being is worth millions of pounds but, in the current transfer climate, surely Charlie Adam commands a higher transfer fee than that which the top guns in the Premier League are offering? Holloway explains that “We’re not stupid little Blackpool. If you want him, I want the right amount of money”, and that is how the ‘bigger’ clubs are treating Blackpool with this offer – stupid and little. Not only is Adam worth more than what has been quoted, he commands more and, it seems, until Blackpool receive an offer they deem to be acceptable, Adam won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze but is now unavailable due to the site closing down.
Picture from kongniffe