In august 2016 the French football player Paul Pogba was transferred to Manchester United for over £89 million, a sum so high that even FIFA have been forced to investigate. The spiralling salaries in football have long been a subject of some rebuke, but seeing this particular figure seems to have really brought the subject home for a lot of people.
Football has become a big business, and in such high demand markets money often becomes of little object. Given the vested advertising and commercial interests costs will naturally escalate, but with how much money is also extracted from fans through high ticket prices and merchandise costs, a sour taste is likely present in many mouths.
In recent years the Chinese market has also expanded, seeing comparatively mediocre players being snapped up for eye-watering sums; with Carlos Tevez being signed on to a contract in which he is paid £1 per second (£615,000 per week). Such a surge in offered rates can only push up player fees more.
This piece is not intended to denigrate footballers, there is naturally a high level of training and personal discipline required to play the sport at a high level, but more to bring attention to the immense business behind the sport. I suspect there are few within the audience who now believe that the wages offered are truly comparable with the demands of playing the game. The wages offered are now more comparable to the prices paid by big manufacturers for advanced machinery or rare resources than a fair representation of pay deserved for a job that carries little personal risk.
When I saw the price of the Pogba transfer, my first instinct was to check the MoD website, and calculate a comparison between the bounty offered to him just to move to his new position, and the wage that a naval rating could expect. By my initial calculation, on the base salary of a fully trained junior rating, the sum offered to Pogba for his transfer could provide a year’s wage for 4944 sailors.
Such a gulf in pay is quite shocking, and I elected to look a little further into military applications for this sum of money. Regrettably, I could not find the costs of training a new recruit; I was hoping to calculate how many badly-needed sailors could be brought into the Navy for the cost of signing one Premier League footballer but at this stage such an appraisal seems not to be.
Regardless of the exact number, it is evident that the huge sums spent on footballers are in a totally different league to the money available for recruitment into Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. As a private commercial enterprise, premiership football is run by private interests who can afford to sustain such expenditure, but seeing how costs have run away is shocking when compared to the badly-stretched military forces who are struggling to finance the materiel they need to defend our nation. I am aware of a campaign some years back that suggested that the salaries should be switched; this is a ridiculous notion, and not one I feel the Treasury would be happy to support, but it’s tagline is still catchy: “incomparable risks, incomparable salaries”.