Football: Should Players Take a Pay Cut?

Football players (that’s soccer for our American English speaking peers) have a reputation for being overpaid, overrated and obnoxious. A feeling that has been emphasised by the media, which forced The F.A. to suggest that players take a voluntary 30% reduction, which was rejected.

Such decisions do not really help the ill-feeling towards football players now, does it?

Especially knowing that most of them are sitting at home, while the essential workers, including our doctors and nurses, are out on the frontline. It is why I understand the criticism being directed at them, yet can’t help feel that it is unjust.

Comparisons being made between football players and other professionals just don’t make sense. As a result, the prior are targeted for their pay, without considering the bigger picture. Which is why it is important to remember that if players, at the major clubs, are to take a pay cut, it would be detrimental to society for a few different reasons.

However, before we get to that, it’s important to understand the taxing system that these athletes are subjected to, firstly, in the United Kingdom. The British government taxes players 45% on all earnings above £150,000 as part of the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme in place to tax the weekly pay checks that are sent out. Other countries in Europe tax their players between 45%-48% apart from in Spain, where it is more around 52%. To put it in a nutshell, Spain is a tax hell, which is why many high-profile names like Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho have been in court on tax evasion charges.

Apart form the above mentioned playing fees, the image rights of players and endorsements are taxed as well, which is why many stars look for clever ways to avoid such fees – like Messi, Ronaldo and Mourinho – sometimes unsuccessfully. The end result is that the high salaries keep a continuous flow of money going to the governments, who can then fund the fight against Covid-19.

So, when you consider all of the tax the players pay, which is critical to the day-to-day running of each and every country, it would would be catastrophic, especially now, for governments to not have that funding. That doesn’t even take into consideration the amount of money football players donate to charities. So, in targeting the players, you are in fact allowing the fat cats in charge of the clubs to keep their wealth at the expense of the nations, who need as much help as possible during these testing times.

What about the clubs that are heading for financial trouble?

If you are a lower level club that requires ticket sales and sponsorship to survive, then  I expect your players to take some sort of a pay cut, or maybe help some of the staff, but only if the board members do the same, too. It all comes down to how honest the board members are in relation to their financial situation. It wouldn’t be the first time business men lie in order to fill their pockets a little more. In fact, in an interview, Manchester United’s legendary captain Roy Keane mentions that he was told the club – richest in the world at the time – were having cashflow problems, so they couldn’t offer him a very good contract. A statement that Roy Keane just laughed at.

When the top teams around Europe start talking about financial difficulties, like Manchester United did with Roy Keane, it strikes a nerve with me. These teams are run by the aforementioned fat cats, whom I would much rather see lose a little of their wealth, knowing that they will undoubtedly replenish their bank accounts in whichever “legal” business they desire.

What about if the leagues do not start for a few more months?

As stated in my previous blog, restarting the leagues would be absurd (apart from in Germany). If the leagues do end up commencing again then the pay debate will be forgotten about for a short period. If further delayed or canceled, the pressure on the players will increase. Even if that pressure arises, the players should stand their ground unless the clubs genuinely are in risk of financial problems.

The “big boys” – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man City, Chelsea, and the list goes on –  around the world shouldn’t even bother talking about reductions and financial issues, especially as we are all aware of the millions they splash on players year in year out. Money which could have been better used.

Having said that, I want to see players who are using their time off irresponsibly fined heavily, with all of the money going to charities that work closely with hospital staff. Top of that list is Kyle Walker, who decided that the most effective method of avoiding infection was to hold a sex party at his house. Not so impressive were the Spurs players, and manager,  caught training together in a park. I guess they were “exercising” their rights to go for their daily run.

In the end, whenever salaries are the topic, footballers will always be criticised, but when you look at the context, most players do not earn much unless they’re deemed world class. Even then, the big bucks don’t arrive until they get that big contract. For example, Wayne Rooney was earning £50 a week when he scored his first premier league goal, against Arsenal. Plus, unlike other jobs, the career of an athlete lasts around 15 years, if not cut short by injury, which is why the richest players are the ones who invest heavily in business, or benefit from sponsorship and endorsement deals.

I am under no qualms about footballers, and the way they waste money, but there are also plenty of players who do good. As people, all we can do is hope that these modern day heroes show generosity, and encouraging them to help the public would be much more beneficial to us. Alternatively, we could continue to criticise and ridicule them for being overpaid, only to then be shocked that they aren’t willing to give away their fortune…

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