Oct 26, 2010

The death of the “Professional Footballer”

By Robert Ellis

As an avid football follower from birth (according to my dad anyway) the life of modern day footballers fascinates me. The lifestyle, playing on the big stage and the thrill of walking out for a club you love is something many “amateur” footballers like myself crave.

The question is though; can the modern professional footballer uphold the title? Growing up with a father who has both supported and played for Morecambe FC (League 2) as well as supporting Manchester United, my life has been dominated by the beautiful game.

In his era, footballer’s earned their right to be adored. Working their way up from boot cleaner, to youth contract and finally, professional. This was recently cemented for me during a recent sports dinner with now retired Liverpool pro, Alan Kennedy.

Alan Kennedy came up through the ranks at Newcastle (having been born in Sunderland!) when in 1978, Liverpool manager Bob Paisley decided to fill a left back shaped hole and bought Kennedy for £330,000.

Kennedy went on to play in a Liverpool team with the likes of Alan Hansen and Phil Neal. The defining moment of this professionals career, winning the European Cup against Real Madrid in the 1980 / 81 season scoring the winning goal!

Here is a man who clearly earned his professional footballer mantle, working his way to the top, playing for the game, not the Baby Bentley. With the recent events at Manchester United, it is little wonder today’s footballers are often vilified as greedy and money centred. The will he, won’t he saga surrounding Wayne Rooney and his alleged £60million, five year contract simply highlighted why many believe modern day footballers are greedy and disloyal to the regular fan who, at the end of the day, pay these outrageous wages.

Matt Le Tissier, 16 seasons at Southampton, sums it up perfectly:

“It is amazing, isn’t it? He says he wanted to win trophies and then he gets offered more money and then wants to stay. It seems to be money that drives the players these days.” In the Daily Mail.

So, what is your opinion? Is it that modern day professional footballers simply don’t care about the beautiful game and have it “too easy” or, as a fan, do you believe they deserve everything the modern game brings to them?

My thoughts rest somewhere in between, many of today’s super rich footballers are a similar age to myself and I wonder how my “love for just playing football” would change when offered £250, 000 a week at a new job...


Anonymous said...

Good article. I think a professional (in any occupation) should strive to be the best at what they do. You would have thought this would be very true in football where all professionals receive a very good wage. However money (or greed) still seems to be the main motivator for the worlds top players..... shame!

Anonymous said...

We all knew this would happen once the first mega foreign investors started moving in. Despite how we all poked fun and criticised the clubs with these mega rich 'business folk' at the top, it seems you have to have one now to stand even half a chance in top flight football. You know it's tearing the heart out of the game when the columns are more about the board room wranglings and fat pay packets than what goes on on the pitch. Top football has become a billion 'dollar' business and that's the crunch - its a business now and not just the beautiful game. Which is ironic seeing as how it seems to be a sure fire way for owners to go from billionaires to millionaires to a skint couple of Texans who cant afford the flight home.....Out of curiosity, how much does Javier Hernandez get paid?

Anonymous said...

Great article. Harry Rednapp was quoted just a couple of days ago talking of 'young kids' at football clubs being paid silly money and driving around in flash sports cars! All this even before they get near to first team football. How are they supposed to learn the game when everything is handed to them on a plate? Perhaps one of the problems is that the 'fat cats' such as Chelsea and Man City can offer that 'silly money'....and all players want a share, even mediocre ones. Maybe a Rugby style salary cap is needed. Looking at Rooney's reported new salary I worked out that at the current average salary it would take people like nurses, and ambulance crews etc around ten years to make his weekly wage! something wrong there I think! I appreciate that a footballers working life is relatively short, but If you cannot save for your time outside of the game even on the £10,000 a week that Blackpool reported pay, then something is seriosly wrong. Maybe pro footballers should be made to go on a Secret Millionaire style programme and see what real life is like these days. Most of them seem to have forgotten. One comment on this blog asked what is Javier Hernandez on. Not sure, Certainly nowhere near Rooneys money, but he is certainly earning it at the moment!!!

Dave said...

Why can't a footballer love football and love money? When a big fat contract comes along guaranteeing years involved playing football, whilst earning money then surely they're a winner on both fronts.

Why should it matter to a professional where they play? It's a free market and if the money goes in then it's probably fair that those providing the entertainment get something back. There is a question of loyalty, though it should only be judged by the length of the contract offered - it works two ways.

I think that pro's in the public eye should be judged on their abilities, actions and as a role model. No-one should directly be peeking at others' payslips, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

It's disgusting how much footballers in England are paid when there are people in the world with nothing. However fans are always going to be willing to attend games and pay high ticket prices so I can not see this changing.

I think the only anwser would be state intervention in the case of footballers wages.

Nick said...

Great article Rob!

This comes down to two different things for me; are player wages too high and should players be influenced by offers of more money.

In terms of players being influenced by money, I don't think they're any different to anyone else. Who wouldn't be seduced by a job offer with significantly more money? I don't think it's necessarily wrong for anyone to make a decision based on money, even though it might not always turn out to be the right one. Being happy in my job is most important to me, but that's not to say I haven't been influenced by money before. Different people have different values.

I think the problem in football, is that in an ideal world, footballers would be as loyal to the club as the fans are. And in a lot of cases, this is true — can you ever see Gerrard leaving Liverpool, even though he's probably had crazy money offers from big clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid etc.? Same goes for Giggs, Scholes at Man U. Kudos to them for playing for the club that they love (even though their salaries are probably to be sniffed at!). So, I think it hurts the fans when players leave clubs for offers of more money, because it's an act of disloyalty, and in some cases greed. Cashley Cole anyone? But, like I say, even footballers are motivated by money, and you can't really argue with that.

The other problem is the amount of money players are being paid, and also the amount clubs are paying for them. This seems to be accelerating at an alarming rate, and for me a lot of the problem is coming from the clubs that now have infinite amounts of financial backing - Chelsea, Man City etc. These clubs are driving up player wages, because they don't mind offering silly money to players, sometimes purely to stop other clubs buying them. Look at Shaun Wright-Phillips; Chelsea paid £21million (with an attractive salary increase) to sign him from Man City, even though he was worth nowhere near that (and still isn't). He then went back to City for about £8.5million, which is probably a more accurate figure, even though I personally think he's absolute gash. It's getting ridiculous, and something needs to change before it gets even more out of hand.

I think it would be interesting if the FA ever brought in a player salary cap like they use for a lot of sports in the states. That really would show the true colours of a lot of football players!