13 January, 2011

How working class wages became Fantasy Wages: The 50th Anniversary of the Abolishment of Football's Maximum Wage:

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the abolition of the Maximum Wage in (English) professional football. Little could the star players of 1961 have realised that there actions would lead to current top stars being paid £200,000 a week and more (i.e. more being sponsorship deals).
Believe or not, but as recently as 1960, the most a footballer could earn was £20 (£305 in 2011 money) a week. That had to change when players threatened strike action and "Football's Maximum Wage" became a thing of the past.
Here we trace:  
How a working class wage became: "A wage of Fantasy":
Blackburn Rovers: In 1885 were the first club to turn pro
Billy Meredith: a footballing pioneer
Today's footballers have a lot to thank their predecessors for. Footballers at the highest level today earn hundreds of thousand of pounds (and in Europe; €) each and every week. This wasn't always the way though. In 1885 the Football Association legalised the professionalisation of football. Blackburn immediatedly registered as a pro club. Their wage bill was £615 (£38,000stg in today's money) per year. But players were wanting to have more and more influence in their future earnings, so in 1907, led by Manchester United's Billy Meredith, the first Player's Union was formed. At that time (1907), the players were on a maximum of £4 (£230 today) per week. They weren't classed as a profession. If they were injured, they didn't get paid and they didn't get wages in summer. Two years later, players at Manchester United and other clubs joined a Union. The Football Association(FA) asked all clubs to ban players that joined the Union. Despite having a Union, players couldn't command the wages they felt they were owed. By 1924, a footballer's maximum wage was £8 (£200 in today's money). Until 1945, there was no further increase in footballer's wages, when (i.e. in 1945), the maximum close season wage was increased to £7 (£180 today) per week and two years later the maximum wage was risen to £12 (£320 today) per week. Throughout the 1950's, the wage ceiling increased. By 1958, the maximum wage had risen to £20 (£300 today) per week, which was considered a good wage, because the average industrial wage was £8 - £9 per week. 
1950's star Tom Finney had to double job as a plumber
After World War 2, football was thriving and had huge attendances, averaging 45,000 - 50,000 per week at top flight matches. There was money being made, but the players weren't seeing it. By 1960 top-flight football was viewed as a "dead-end" with top players having to double-job to supplement their income. 
Jimmy Armfield, who played for Blackpool
Matthews: Magnificent
from 1954-1971 said: "I'd played alongside Stanley Matthews and he could put 10,000 people on a gate. I just couldn't understand how he wasn't entitled to see any of that money."
Hill: Leader
Haynes: high earner
 Jimmy Hill spearheaded the campaign for better pay. Hill said: "It wasn't just about money, it was about a principal. The players felt strongly about the injustice of the situation." At a meeting of all of London's professional clubs, Hill stated that if the clubs didn't change players contracts (to give them more pay), then the players would have to go on strike. Hill received unanimous backing, not just in London, but also in Birmingham and Manchester. The players however, were privately concerned that striking might damage the game in the eyes of the public, but, to a man, the players backed the strike. Under intensive pressure (from players, public and Government) and backed into a corner, the FA abolished the maximum wage in January 1961. Jimmy Armfield takes up the story: "Back then (the 1950s/'60s), the clubs had all the  power, now the power is out their on the pitch with the players." That (the abolition of the maximum wage) opened the floodgates to better player wages. Within months, Johnny Haynes was the first £100 (£1,500 today) a week footballer.
50 years  on, the world of professional football is like a different world to that of the 1960s. "The players are better, the pitches are better, the training facilities are better, the treatment of injuries is better, the kit is better, the medical care is better. The Union has greater strength now, so they can protect players - past and present - better. Of course, the wages are also better. All things in life improve - you've got to believe that" - says Jimmy Armfield.

He earns £250,000 a WEEK to run after a football
With the way top-level footballing wages have gone: Is it now time to re-introduce a Football Maximum Wage?:
The legacy of the abolition of the maximum footballing wage is that modern top-flight footballers have become multi-millionaires who are idolised by millions and often treated like film stars. The Premier League wage bill in 2010 was £1.3BILLION (for some 500 footballers). The average weekly Premier League wage is now estimated at £70,000. However, these crazy wages are only at the very highest level of football. Average wages in League Two (England's Fourth Tier of professional football) for 2010 was estimated at £45,000 per week. A wage-cap was also installed by the Football League, with each club in League Two ordered to spend no more than 60% of its annual turnover. 
So; are top-flight footballers earning too much:

NHL: 2005 Lockout
A salary-cap is a concept that is rigidly enforced in American Football and Ice Hockey in the United States. However, there is no restriction on the division of wages within franchises (squads). That is: a star player could theoretically get paid 90% of a club's total budget. In 2005, the National Hockey League (NHL) season did not take place due to a player's strike over wages. In American Football's NFL, there is a softer structure, where exceptions are made.
Prof. John Sudgen (Professor of Sociology of Sport - pictured left) says: "They (USA) has salary caps, but it's at a completely different situation there. It's like a hermetically sealed sports network over there where there are franchises. There's no promotion/relegation and each franchise is run on exactly the same model, so you can have collective bargaining agreements and all that comes with that. That is completely different to here (England - and indeed; Europe). If there was a salary cap in England, could you have it in Germany or Italy? It's virtually impossible given that we're playing in Pan-Euorpean and even global club footballing tournaments now. Clubs need to be closely monitored and if they can't pay their tax bill or their VAT bill, then they should not be allowed to take on any more players and get its act in order. What happened with high-profile, big budget clubs like Portsmouth and Leeds going into administration in recent years, should never have happened. Footballers decades ago could never have dreamt of the money that's come into the game, but sometimes clubs pay a high price for living beyond their means."

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