Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Five more years!

The news that Benitez has signed for another five years as manager of Liverpool leaves me with mixed feelings. As a(n armchair) Liverpool fan I think he has been very good for the club and I think another five years of him would be a good thing for us.

However, for a while now I have felt that the whole structure of payments within football is totally wrong and this is an example. Why do managers get to sign for such protracted periods? What often happens in these scenarios is that the manager does not do as well as was hoped, the fans clamour for change and then they are out of the door after a year or two. They still have their contracts honoured though and end up with hundreds of thousands, or millions of pounds for doing nothing because they screwed up.

I am a pretty good software developer, but if a prospective employer was interested in me, there is no way that I could persuade them to sign me on for 5 years! It is the same in most walks of life so why should it be any different for football managers?

There is a similar problem of distortion with player's wages. It is disgraceful that many players now regularly earn tens of thousands of pounds every week. For many players, within a year or two of playing they have earned enough money to be comfortably off for the rest of their lives. Where do we expect the hunger for success to come from when they have earned so much money so early in their career? I am not saying there is no hunger at all, of course there is, but I am sure there would be more if they were earning more sensible amounts and needed to have a successful career behind them before they would be able to reap the material rewards.

An important point to make here as well is that the money to support this distorted structure does not come from thin air. It comes from the fans pockets in the form of gate receipts, season tickets, merchandise, Sky Sports subscriptions etc. I feel that the fans are getting a raw deal when they have to pay so much to support this. And with football, it is not like the fans have a choice like they would in other areas of their life. If they don't like their mobile phone provider, they can switch, if they get tired of Tesco they can start shopping in Sainsbury's instead. But if a fan feels she is paying too much as a Chelsea fan, she cannot just switch to Fulham or West Ham. Well she could but it is extremely unlikely given how football works! I could never support anybody but the reds and I am a casual fan at best.

The current situation is unsustainable. Many clubs are in debt and some go into administration every year. They rarely completely fail because there will always be a fan base to underpin the clubs but the spiralling costs cannot continue indefinitely, especially in the middle of a recession.

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