Consider this: the amount payed to the players at Manchester’s 2 Premier League clubs is roughly the same as the total wage and salary bill of that city’s 6 hospitals*. I repeat, the amount paid to the players. It does not include the manager’s salary, nor any of the other staff employed by the club – coaches, physios, groundsmen, admin, marketers, etc. The hospitals’ figure, however, covers all 13,000 employees, from the highest paid consultant to the porters.
The total for the five Premier League clubs with the highest player wage bills is close on £1 billion.
It makes me wonder if the British public care more about sport in general, and football in particular, than they do about their beloved NHS.
I also think it very strange that people who demand “their country back”, and complain that they are being “over-run by immigrants”, nevertheless find it acceptable that their local football club is owned by foreigners, managed by a foreigner and has a significant number of foreign players on its books.
That broad description applies to the majority, if not quite all, of the clubs currently in the League. The club presently at the top of the League is 86% owned by the deputy Prime Minister of an Islamic state.
Meanwhile, Manchester United is 90% owned by the six Glazer siblings of First Allied Corporation, which owns and rents out shopping malls across the USA, through a company registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. This leads me to another strange thing: people who resent the accumulation of wealth by entrepreneurs and bankers who take great care to avoid paying tax, apparently are quite content to have such individuals taking control of a club that began as a community owned and operated organisation.
Of course, football is not the only arena in which vast incomes can be earned from the practice of sporting prowess. Formula 1 motor racing, golf and boxing come to mind.
All of these sports are able to pay out such vast amounts as a result of corporate sponsorship which, in turn, relies on the sale of television rights. It comes as no surprise, then, that sport, and football in particular, has taken over our television screens. Not so long ago Saturday afternoon was the time for sport, with recorded highlights shown later on the same day. Now football can displace the regular schedules on any night of the week. And this is despite the proliferation of channels dedicated solely to the showing of sporting events, including those operated by the football clubs themselves.
What if the money now sloshing around in sport could be diverted to help deal with the many problems faced by the poor and those ‘just about managing’ as Mrs May so memorably put it? Health, Social Care and Housing are all deprived of resources whilst sportsmen and women, and those who exploit their prowess for profit, enjoy fantasy life styles.
The huge disparity in wealth and incomes that is the consequence of market capitalism is widely condemned, as is tax avoidance through the use of shell companies registered in tax havens. Why, then, do we so easily condone the vast waste of resources that professional sport has become?
*Manchester United spent £232 million and Manchester City £198m on player wages in the season 2016/7, source: totalsportek.com. The total salary bill for Manchester’s six hospitals in the 2016/7 financial year was £448 million, covering 12,992 staff, according to the Trust’s annual report.