Connor Rosewell explains why the antagonisation of Footballers and their wages is part of a class war.
The achievements of Leicester City Football Club last year have been well documented and viewed as a genuine fairytale in the sporting world. The adulation they received was grand, and most people agreed that members of the squad that took part in this magnificent triumph were worthy of a pay rise.
Yet the picture is far from rosy this year, as the club has sunk back into what many fans deem to be their ‘normal’ position near the foot of the table. After the dismissal of popular manager Claudio Ranieri, the knives were out for the players and the unsavoury comments flooded in from social media. Naturally, it didn’t take long for the issue of their wages to be brought up. Many claimed that they were now ‘not worth the money they were being paid’, ‘mercenaries’, and ‘money grabbers’. Whenever footballers under perform, it’s easy to point to their salaries.
This is hugely problematic, and it is a symptom of society’s unconscious collective disdain against the working class. It is not my intention to try to claim that footballers are not paid too much – they clearly are. Paying someone over £200,000 a week to kick a glorified sphere into a net is undeniably preposterous. An ideal society would implement a wage cap to halt these astronomical sums and their perennially upward trajectory. The inflated market of the football world judges the players’ worth and value. TV deals, sponsorships and ticket prices are forever increasing – fans pockets are being emptied as fast as those of players’ begin to bulge. It’s not unrealistic to imagine a football agent waddling out of a meeting with a wheelbarrow of cash after negotiating an improved contract for their client. But footballers are not entirely deserving of the vitriol they receive. They are used as scapegoats, whilst those from higher class backgrounds evade the public eye with similarly undeserved salaries
“Whenever footballers under perform, it’s easy to point to their salaries”
Just as most supporters of football teams are, the vast majority of English footballers overwhelmingly come from working class backgrounds too. Not to mention there are not many other professions people can name that create many black working class millionaires. Of course, not everyone will make it as a professional footballer, but we can’t deny that this is a form of social mobility that is working. The constant demonisation of footballers and their pay packet in the media has its roots in a vilification of the working class. The public being concerned with athletes’ salary is surely no accident. Footballers have been elevated to the cult of celebrity thanks to how they are portrayed in the media. The smokescreen of the premier league is nothing but an excellent distraction from the failures of the elite, who to the uninformed will slip under the radar with their own vulgar actions. We should turn our ire towards those who still earn huge sums despite their contributions to the 2008 financial crash. Those in charge of privatised railways that are consistently failing to provide prompt train services for commuters also deserve to be probed. Surely this is preferable to slating success stories of those from economically deprived backgrounds? Footballers have incredibly short careers, and are nothing but employees of powerful, profit driven corporations. They are only following strict regulations asked of them, as opposed to pulling the strings of how their professional world should be run.
If there is one issue more troubling than this, then it’s how the media present their attacks on the salary of these athletes. All too often news outlets prime their readers with clickbait articles displaying how extortionate their wages are. “How Wayne Rooney could save the NHS” is but one headline screaming for our attention, alongside crass comparison pieces displaying what material goods their money could buy . The use of the NHS as a comparison point is naturally seen as a way for the media to express how large footballers’ wages are in a language they believe football fans could easily understand. This is a tactic commonly used by the press to attract working class readers, and it is patronising in its own right (you may recall a certain red bus with the figure £350m spread across it). The mind wanders why the media did not instead compare how much of Rooney’s annual salary could be worth the equivalent of the cuts to disability care, or the government’s austerity package. The danger of these articles is that they are essentially manipulating their readers to despise heroes from lower class background due to their success. The working class begin to loathe those who are no longer among their ranks due to their wealth. Yet it is plain to see that they are not the real enemy here. It is those in charge that have allowed this economic system to thrive that deserve our attention. The salaries of the upper classes remain unquestioned and unscathed in comparison, as we are brainwashed to resent those diligent members of the working class fortunate enough to escape from their struggle.
“The salaries of the upper classes remain unquestioned and unscathed in comparison”
Football is far from a perfect sport – sexism and homophobia are still rife, and racism lingers amongst a small group of fans at most clubs. It would be incredibly difficult for someone to argue that the goals Harry Kane scores means he is worth more money than the work of a police officer, nurse or teacher. But we need a fundamental change in attitude when discussing overpaid professions, and realise that the world of football provides socially disadvantaged children a fantastic opportunity of success. Wayne Rooney may earn too much, but he came from a background where people could only dream of earning too much. We should relish the fact he can provide for his family and improve their well-being, not castigate him for it. Moreover, many footballers are also heavily involved in philanthropy and charity work too, but the media make sure we’re enticed by their off and on-field misdemeanours, not their generosity. A shift in perspective is necessary when assessing professions with excess wages. There are far worse people than footballers to be targeted for their vile salaries, and they deserve to be subjects to our scrutiny more than athletic working class icons.