These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Printed in the New Years Day 2008 Southern league south and west division match v Thatcham Town. We lost 2-1 in front or 232 people.

It said everything about the values of our society. The new sports minister attacked
the financial excesses of the Premier League, and instead of chants of support he got shot down in flames.

In an address at a sports business conference, sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe singled out England captain John Terry's wages as "obscene", said Chelsea's financial position was "unsustainable", and warned that season-ticket rises at Old Trafford were pricing out ordinary fans. A few factual errors were pounced on by the clubs to denounce his arguments. He inflated John Terry's weekly wage from £130,000 to £150,000, and said Chelsea were £250m "in the red" when their actual losses for the past two years was just a mere £220m. So that’s alright then. He said Manchester United had increased ticket prices by 13% when the real rise was only 10.87%. But if we want to get into nit-picking then maybe he should have taken into account the £38,000 Business Week estimates the England captain gets a week from his official endorsements from companies like Umbro, Samsung, Nationwide and Pro Evo Soccer.

Of course, down the lower reaches of the league not every player is paid such ridiculous amounts of cash but the main reason John Terry’s wages are so wrong is that the people who do the essential work in society get paid a pittance. Nurses, fireman, bin men, teachers – look what happens when they go on strike. But if John Terry and his mates went on strike? (People can be forgiven for thinking that this has already happened when England played Croatia).Well we might see a few more Chelsea fans at Slough games but society wouldn’t exactly come grinding to a halt now would it?

The Prime Minister wasn’t best pleased with Sutcliffe’s comments either coming 24 hours after the government had thrown its weight behind the World Cup bid. Infact the government has little sympathy for the wider argument. This is not surprising really, since New Labour have done little to sort out the scroungers in our society. I’m not talking about the usual tabloid targets, but the corporations and super rich who are masters of dodging taxes. Football mimics our society, with the obscenely wealthy stuffing their face with even more of the Christmas cake. Everyone else is told to tighten their belts and warned that their just isn’t enough money in the fifth richest country in the world to have decent public services.

It was recently revealed that the international super-rich had stashed assets worth $491bn in Jersey in order to 'avoid tax'. John Christensen, a former economic adviser to the Jersey government and now director of Tax Justice Network said "The trend in the last 30 years has been to shift the burden of tax away from companies on to the consumer and labour. Capital is increasingly going untaxed."

As football is now just another cash cow for the super rich, the ideas of the new president of Uefa, Michael Platini, haven’t gone down so well with the elite. He wrote to Gordon Brown arguing passionately that “the values championed by football are a powerful source of social integration and civic education”. “Football is a game before a product, a sport before a market, a show before a business.” He proposed crazy things like cutting the number of Champion League places allocated to Europe’s top leagues and giving 75% of allocated tickets to the finalist’s supporters. He wants wage caps on players; quotas for home-grown players; regulations on agents; financial checks on owners; revenue sharing between clubs; and redistribution of revenue into lower leagues.

Of course the top clubs said Platini was “pursuing his own bizarre agenda.” Like what? Trying to introduce a more level playing field that might bring a bit more competition into football? The British government unsurprisingly weren’t impressed either. A Gordon Brown spokesman said he would not allow England's national game to be run by Brussels. Oh no, much better to have it run by a murky global gang of the criminally rich, already salivating at the prospect of breaking free from tiresome Uefa and even national leagues, instead mounting show games in global tours, modelled on rock concerts and sponsored by multinationals (que Man United’s up and coming dates in Saudia Arabia).


Anonymous Nigel Baldwin said...

It will come as no surprise to regular programme readers, that I feel
compelled to respond to Brighton Rebels article on money within football.

Firstly I must say that when an MP, especially a Government Minister
such as Gerry Sutcliffe, complains about ?value for money? it is no
wonder he gets shot down in flames. Talk about pots and kettles!!!

Obviously my club allegiance leads me to jump to the defense of John
Terry in particular, (especially as he appears to have been singled
out in Mr. Sutcliffe?s self serving rhetoric) but I must also jump to
the defense of footballers in general and the claim that their
earnings are ?obscene?. What on earth qualifies a salary as ?obscene?
for heavens sake? Is it £1000 a week, is it £10,000 a week, or is it
higher? I wonder where Mr. Sutcliffe draws the line? Presumably
somewhere above the slightly offensive (to me at least) salary he
draws from the exchequer every week! However, judging by most of the
people I here whinging about it on talk shows or in pubs, it is
?anything more than I earn!?

Also, why is it that footballers seem to be the sole object of this
green eyed vitriol from the morally outraged? I have yet to hear
anyone criticise the millions earned by Golfers (Tiger Woods earnings,
for example, would make John Terry?s look positively minuscule!),
Tennis Players, Racing Drivers, Actors or pop stars. Surely no one
could argue that any of those professions were of more importance than
nursing, refuse collection (though personally I have an issue with
dust men which I shan?t go into here save to say that if you don?t
want to do the bloody job get another one mate!) or teaching.
Certainly, not on moral grounds they couldn?t anyway.

And therein lies the rub. The world does not turn on moral grounds. It
might be nice if it did, but as long as eggs is eggs it never will. It
turns on trade, commerce and MONEY!

It is precisely because one man wants more than the next, that the
world has progressed. If it weren?t for this progress we would all
still be sitting in caves roasting widerbeast over an open fire and
dying at age 30! Sir Alexander Fleming may never have achieved what he
did if he had thought he would have received greater financial reward
emptying the bins in his home town of Darvel than he would for his
scientific work. We may all still be reading by candle light if Thomas
Edison hadn?t thought he might make a few bob from his light bulbs!

Therefore to compare footballer?s wages to the income of Nurses,
Teachers and Bin men on moral grounds is not viable. One can only
assess the financial worth of any profession on commercial grounds.
Nurses, Teachers and bin men etc are ?public service? positions and
are paid for from taxation at local and/or central Government level.
As such they are determined directly by the income received from tax
payers such as Brighton Rebel and I.

Were we to, say, double the salary of such people because of some
moral crusade on their behalf, this would require extensive increases
to taxation, which would be levied upon all of us and we would be
forced to pay it. With football, tennis or motor racing we have
freedom of choice (well except for BBC funding which is certainly
open to criticism given the garbage they churn out on a daily basis.)
as to whether we want to help fund the earnings of the employees of
these industries.

Furthermore, how would one translate the value of a teacher?s
contribution, on moral grounds, into financial reward? How much is a
Teachers contribution worth, £60,00 a year? £100,000? £200,000? Who is
to say?

I suspect BRs argument would be that if corporations did not avoid
taxation, as he claims in his customarily well researched article, we
could afford to pay these public servants more. But, I would suggest
that even the extra taxation raised on the $491billion allegedly
stashed away in Jersey would not go very far in financing huge wage
increases throughout the ever increasing public sector work force. I
would also suggest that the use of the word ?avoiding? is misleading.
Decreasing or minimizing their tax burden would surely be more
appropriate. However, one could argue that by doing so it keeps more
funds within these corporations for expansion, thus leading to
increased employment, which in itself increases the revenue going into
the Chancellers budget box to finance the public sector. Whilst this
attitude to taxation by corporations large and small, (lets not single
out the multi-nationals here, after all my accountant does everything
in his power, and within the limits of the law, to minimise my small
business?s tax obligations) may be deemed by some as morally wrong, I
suspect that the majority of those berating it would be hard pushed to
say that they hadn?t minimized their own tax obligations in one way or
another at some point. Hands up anyone who hasn?t paid someone cash to
avoid VAT for example. And let?s be brutally honest here, if the dear
old PM did receive a huge windfall from increased company taxation, we
all know he would use it to finance vote winning personal taxation
cuts rather than pass it on to teachers or nurses.

Whether we like it or not, and despite the fairy tale eulogies of
Michel Platini (which border on blatant socialist nationalisation
policies if you ask me or Mrs Thatcher!) football is a huge business
these days, and the money generated from TV revenue and corporate
advertising runs into billions. And who should receive the lion?s
share of this income if not the players? After all, if it weren?t for
the players there would be no ?product? to sell.

It is to see the players that pubs, clubs and private individuals take
out satellite tv subscriptions. It is because millions of people tune
in week after week to see the players that corporations pay huge
advertising fees to target these people. That is why the players are
perfectly justified to receive such large salaries, and whether they
are obscene or positively Mary Whitehouse-like in their purity can
only ever be a subjective opinion.

10:35 am


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