While taking a few hours off over the weekend, I took the opportunity to watch my beloved Tottenham Hotspur take on Fulham in a Barclays Premier League football match. During the game a tiny, non relevant moment happened and it really got me thinking about the world we live in where we idolise the 20 teams in this league to the point that the money they earn is irrelevant, despite them earning more than most bankers.
The incident itself was an opportunity to score for the opposing striker that was taken brilliantly, only to be matched by the goal keeper who kept it out of the net. The opposing striker then grabs the keeper playfully and jokes about how he could have let it go in. The commentator then notes that it was nice to see two players enjoying their moments despite the enormous pressure they face. In that moment it hit me. Why on earth are these guys who are effectively just kicking a bag of air (extremely skilfully) into a net put under so much pressure from the general public?
It is estimated that approximately 25 million people are glued to the TV watching football and a further 1,397,992 people go to attend a professional football match (yes I actually sat down and did the math with average attendance for this season). Add that all up and it’s the best part of 26.5 million people that watch these games every weekend -these games that they pay extortionate prices for and, while there are a large number of fans that are outraged by this, the 1.4 million people going to games every week says that it is not exactly a dying sport.
At the last general election where we vote who is going to run our country, decide our budget and generally give the power of our lives to, we saw a 65.1% turnout (approximate 29m people). We elected (sort of) a coalition government of which David Cameron became the leader. Whether you love him or loathe him he is our Prime Minister and he has the pressure of 100% of the UK, whether they voted for him or whether they voted at all. He earns £142,000 per year. Wayne Rooney earns 3 x times as much PER WEEK.
Manchester United still have the highest attendance records for the Premier League at around 75,000 people a week. So we as a society somehow justify that in the 90 minutes a week the pressure of 75,000 demanding fans somehow deserves a wage of over £300k per week – that’s £1224/h for a 35 hour working week, which clearly isn’t the amount of hours he is doing. Probably closer to 10-15 hours a week. Somehow that amount of money, which is frankly too high for me to even comprehend fully, is justified when we pay the leader of our country not even 1% of Rooney’s annual salary.
I love competitive sport, I always get caught up in the Olympics, Wimbledon and other sporting events the UK has a presence in, even if it is something that I don’t watch regularly. I think it has a important place in society as London 2012 proved by somehow uniting an entire country around the event. I firmly believe that being in Britain around that time was some of the most amazing scenes I will ever see. However, when we look at the money that is thrown into football we really have to ask ourselves is it worth the economic benefit? I have to admit that I don’t have the wider numbers to see how much a Premier League football club in a particular city helps the local economies.
So maybe we have to do something completely different? A footballers tax – why not tax another 20% and take 60% of their wages at a certain point? Surely £100k a week is enough to secure a future and get your weekly shops done? If not then I will happily demonstrate how to live off £100k a week and save money – it would be my pleasure. There are so many pressures around the world to fight hunger, poverty and inequality, yet we have the most outrageous of all inequalities staring us in the face every week and we do nothing.
The ‘working class’ are outraged at the bankers and the bad capitalism they have seen recently; surely the real crime is turning this working man’s sport into nothing more than a money making scandal where all the money that could be poured even further into local, national and global economies to solve real issues, end up in the pockets of the people that we despise the most.
2014 is a world cup year and during the summer I will no doubt be watching games and supporting England as once more we try to prove ourselves on the biggest stage of all. In the back of my mind though I will always be looking at these players and wondering if clapping the fans and throwing the odd shirt into the crowd after the game is really doing enough to support the people that spend a large portion of their own money coming to watch the 22 men on that field.
How much unemployment and poverty are they solving each week? Maybe its about time they are called upon as individuals to step up and do what’s right.