When I think of professional athletes who have the biggest income, I immediately think of footballers (that is, English football, not American). Not to say they are actually the most paid – in fact the athlete with the highest income is Floyd Mayweather, an American boxer. According to Forbes.com, there are only two football players in the top ten highest paid athletes in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). However, the reason why I immediately think of footballers is because their salaries are so widely publicised. Football transfers typically occur in the summer, and when a footballer changes from one club to another, we are told how much he is sold for.
Are football players paid too much?
There is much debate about whether footballers get paid too much. A lot of hype has recently surrounded Mario Balotelli and Luiz Suarez in particular. Balotelli is known for being difficult to work with. As it turns out he was sold to Liverpool for only 16m pounds. However, within the first day of his arrival on the team, Liverpool sold 50,000 pounds worth of Balotelli’s t-shirts. Suarez’s story is a little different.
He was sold by Liverpool to Barcelona for 75m pounds. This was after the scandal from the World Cup where Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder. This was not Suarez’s first unsportsmanlike behaviour. Many people questioned why he was bought for so much money when he was banned from playing football for four months, and because he obviously did something very wrong. Morally speaking, he should not be considered.
So what’s the deal?
However, the football industry does not work on morals. Footballers’ income, like most valued things, is determined by the market and therefore, obeys the laws of supply and demand. Those people, who can play football at a professional level, are rare. Many people argue that is why they are paid so much: because there are so few people in the world that have their level of skill. Therefore, supply is limited. However, demand is very high. Millions of people watch and follow football, and football clubs rely on this when determining how much a given footballer should be paid. Football is now a part of the entertainment industry and so revenue includes the price of tickets, souvenirs, and most importantly, the amount paid to watch sport on TV and similarly the amount media companies pay to stream the games live.
This means for a given quantity demanded, the equilibrium price will increase. The reason why footballers can be paid so much is because of this relationship between supply and demand. The issue now becomes the fact that wages keep rising. The average UK wage rose 86% in last 20 years but the average footballer’s pay rose 1500% in the same time period. This means price for tickets has risen as well and so it is increasingly harder for fans to go see games. The question remains: at which point must we stop the rise of footballer’s salaries, or will there ever be a limit? Will demand continue to increase? Is it morally right for footballers’ wages to continue to increase when there are so many hard-working people who get paid only a fraction of the amount of money? There is not correct answer to these questions but it is certainly interesting to explore them.