Are Premier League players overpaid? Since the end of the maximum wage for footballers in England in 1961, after top players’ wages started to climb way above the average earnings for workers, fans started to say that players earned too much. But with the almost exponential increase in Premier League players’ wages in recent years, surely enough is enough?
I disagree. Premier League players are NOT overpaid. They are the best at what they do. They entertain millions, indeed billions of people. The clubs choose to pay their wages. One argument against is that football is too frivolous an activity for such high pay. But we don’t say there should be a salary cap on Hollywood film stars or pop stars, or celebrities famous simply for being famous. Or other very highly paid sports stars, across a range of sports. As soon as football went professional, in 1885, it became part of capitalism. So why should it be any different to any other capitalist industry? The players aim to get the highest wages they can. If you were them, you would too. Even when highly paid players give substantial sums to charity, to projects they are passionate about, they don’t seem to be accorded the same respect as other wealthy people who do this.
The Premier League brings thousands of fans to the UK each year as tourists – it significantly boosts our economy. In total, the Premier League earns over £4 billion a year for the UK economy and the clubs pay more than £1.6 billion a year in tax. The big wages are needed to attract and retain the best talent from around the world, which in turn makes the Premier League the most watched league around the world, England’s ‘Hollywood’. Whatever you think, millions of people are prepared to pay to watch the players, and so they can command these wages. Yes, Premier League players make lots of money, but so do many other people in capitalist societies. Why should we single out footballers for such criticism?
If anything, Premier League 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. There are mediocre Major League Baseball pitchers who make more than most Premier League players, in a league with nothing like the money of the Premier League.
So, what’s behind this view that footballers are overpaid? It’s simply prejudice against the kinds of people who become Premier League players, who tend to be working class, often not well educated, often black. For some, they are just not the ‘right kind of people’ to be earning such money. Which is prejudice, pure and simple.
My full argument that Premier League players are NOT overpaid is in my new book, What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths, published by Bloomsbury.
Its available from all good bookshops, and :