Sunday, 7 February 2016

There are a lot of greedy bastards in football - and they don't all sit in the directors' box

Some 10,000 Liverpool supporters walked out of Anfield 77 minutes into yesterday's game against Sunderland in protest at the top ticket price for seats in their new stand being set at £77. Fair enough - it seems a lot of money to watch a team that's not doing particularly well, despite importing a rather manic-looking German coach, and which last won the league a quarter of a century ago.  As fans walked out yesterday, they chanted  ‘enough is enough you greedy bastards’ at the club's owners. Former professional footballers have been quick to support the mini-boycott - on last night's Match of the Day, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer agreed that ticket prices were too high, and former Liverpool player and Sky Sports analyst Jamie Carragher has leant his name to the cause. But, then, couldn't the fans just as well have directed their "greedy bastards" insult at the players on the field (and, of course, their rapacious agents)?

Liverpool's first squad wage bill for the current season is £152 million. That's just salaries - it doesn't include transfer fees. Forward Daniel Sturridge is on £120,000 a week. According to the club's own website, Sturridge, who seems to be permanently injured, and who, his manager has suggested, needs to learn to "play through the pain barrier", has played a massive total 269 minutes so far this season, with almost three-quarters of the matches completed. He has started three games, and has twice appeared as a substitute. He has scored two goals. For me, he should have done better.

The highest wage bill for 2015/16 is Chelsea's, at £215.5 million. Manchester United are paying out £203 million. Neither side is exactly covering itself in glory. Wayne Rooney, who takes home almost £300,000 a week, has fired into life recently - at exactly the point when the club's season became irredeemable due to two months' worth of soporifically shitty performances. Let's face it - no one's a fan of that.

I have no skin in this game, and I don't pretend to understand football's financing structure. I watch Match of the Day and the occasional contest on Sky and BT - that's all. As for the fans who pay whopping prices to support their teams in the flesh, that's entirely a matter for them. But for former professional footballers to get all aerated on behalf of those fans strikes me as a trifle hypocritical. After all, they were extremely well paid in their glory days, and continue to earn large amounts from the broadcasters whose financial contribution to the sport seems to have both created wage hyperinflation and allowed some clubs to treat their fans like dirt because the big money comes from TV rather than the punter in the flat cap with the meat pie and the rattle. (It's similar to the situation with banks - the government's decision to allow them to borrow money at rock-bottom rates has allowed our banks to treat customers with utter contempt: after all, they don't really need to borrow money from us any longer.)

I'm sure one of the reasons the vast majority of neutral observers (i.e. those of us whose teams don't have a hope in hell of winning the league this season) are rooting for Leicester City is that its wage bill is a "mere" £48.2, whereas, for instance, the wage bill for Manchester City, whom Leicester thrashed in such a thrilling fashion yesterday, is £193.8 million.

All together now: Come on you Foxes!


  1. Have you got BT Sport? Top bloke. All round to Scott's place. Riley, Moss, Southern Man get the beers in and I'll sort the pizzas. SDG get the train down with a couple of single malts. Get baking, Mrs G.

    That would probably cost slightly more than £77 but be rather more fun. TV rights are so lucrative that most Premiership clubs could halve ground prices and still make massive profits. In the stadium, £77 would price out the ordinary local support and just get you sat next to a slightly more affluent sweary oik, after being treated as a potential criminal all the way from the train station to your seat. The last football match I went to was a Real Madrid home match, an experience so enjoyable that I decided that I wouldn't spoil it by undergoing again the rip-off and piss-take that is our own equivalent British football entertainment.

    For slightly more than double the Liverpool match day ticket, I can have a year of turning up at the Oval when I like and watch cricket all day. And then watch Match of the Day. Maybe a Premiership title for Leicester might shake things up a bit but I doubt it. The only difference will be that their players will treble their wages and get even more ridiculous haircuts.

    1. I suspect Mrs. G would discover she had a pressing engagement elsewhere - probably abroad. But I'm okay with the rest of your proposal - and, as we Scots-Norwegians are now strict teetotallers, you might have to drink all the Scotch yourself. (Mind you, that might make a 0-0 West Brom-Aston Villa draw more palatable.)

      I paid £60 for BT Sport's Champions League coverage, mainly so I could watch Manchester United trash the opposition on their way to a triumphant final. Instead, I find myself watching the likes of Dynamo Plodz v. Jerusalem Wanderers (very good at defensive walls). Not one of my better investments. Still, they've had a few decent Premiership matches to partially make up for it.

      I met the chap who composed the Champions League theme a few years ago. He ploughs his royalties into arts documentaries, so it's going to a good cause.

  2. It's a Cinderella story. We all love to see the underdog do well and Leicester are on course to become the Premiership's most popular champions. I also like their manager. There's no excessive flamboyance; none of that "special one" nonsense and he rarely complains about officials or moans to journalists. I think I'm right in saying their top striker was playing non league football until Leicester bought him. He's now almost a shoe in to represent England.
    Before the season started you could buy the entire team for what Arsenal, Chelsea or Man City pay for one player.
    The entire club, particularly the manager, have done a tremendous job.
    If only Ranieri had decided to manage Fulham...

    1. Nice sense of humour, too. When asked last week how he felt about betting companies now making Leicester favourites, Ranieri pointed out that, at the start of the season, they'd also picked him as the first manager to be sacked.

      Anyway, what's wrong with Slaviša Jokanović (apart from four losses in seven games)? If you're attending the QPR match on Saturday, yours will be one of the voices floating through the window of my eyrie - let's hope it isn't singing, "You're getting sacked in the morning."