Thursday, 20 January 2011

Money For Nothing

Today we are going to talk economics. Not Keynesian, nowhere near that level, we're going down to the Daily Hate Mail level. There is a section of society that is disgustingly privileged. They earn disproportionate amounts of money in relation to society and probably to their talent. They do this in a very short time. They then retire early to their various chalets and villas around the world in their Ferraris and Astons funded by you and me, John and Jane Q. Taxpayer. What did they do for this money? It's often very hard to say. They get headhunted from rival firms for vast quantities and get paid enormous amounts of cash. If that firm goes under because of their underperformance, they then move on for another astonishing fee to earn yet more money. They hide most of their money away from the taxman, despite apparently being a proud constituent part of this country, and pay less to HMRC than Wee Jock Poo Pong McPlop, of Scottish loo cleaning fame. Every now and again for a bit of good publicity they do a little charity work which equates to the third Monday in December's pay, but we all suspect it's probably a tax break. Despite ultimately failing on a regular basis, Britain somehow keeps them employed.

You're thinking bankers aren't you? Nope. Perhaps you're thinking rock stars from the picture, but you'd be wrong again. On a side note, Dire Straits are possibly the best ever product of the UK. I just used them because the title of their 1988 Greatest Hits Album worked wonderfully for this evening's post. Anyway, I'm not actually talking about any of those lot. No, the introduction was a cunning draw, to get you full of the fervent 'let's string the bankers up' vitriol that we in Britain love so much. This evening's short (it's all relative) post is about footballers.

Examine the first paragraph again and have a think if Premiership footballers do not fall under every category I mentioned. There are a couple of major differences. Firstly, we apparently love footballers, but hate bankers. Footballers are great. Brilliant role models (as discussed here); cheating on wives, generally with the partners of their friends, gambling away millions, taking drugs and disrespecting every possible position of authority. And getting paid 4 times the national yearly wage every week for it. Luckily, they pump so much of it back into society. Yup, the mean streets of Liverpool, Manchester and London are so much better off for the money paid back (because it is back, the money all comes from them through tickets, shirts and tv deals) by the likes of Gerrard, Rooney and Cole. Oh sorry, my mistake, they didn't actually give any of it back really, did they? If not to their towns, at least to English football? Nope, just cruises, foreign cars, tattoos and fat old hookers (every little helps eh, Wayne?)

Forgive me for going off on my tangent, but talking about this lot leave a rather sour taste in my mouth. There are a couple of Premiership footballer group sex jokes in there somewhere but I think I'll rise above it. The second way they differ is that they didn't 'cause' the international recession of 2008-10 and onwards like the bankers did. Now on that one, you have me. I'm not going to go into the parts about how Governments could perhaps have been better prepared for the bad times (cf. Aesop's Fable 'The Ant and the Grasshopper'). My point is on the remunerative scales of bankers and footballers.

Let's just, for argument's sake, agree that they both fit in the first paragraph. That is, they both apparently are good, we can't do without them, but sometimes they are totally crap. Bankers seem to have at least worked some of this into their remuneration packages. You get a basic salary, and a bonus which is performance-related. Now some argue these bonuses are too short-termist, rewarding short term profit that may in the long run prove a terrible loss for the company. They have a point, but at least there is some kind of performance-related pay system. If you are rubbish, you get at most your basic with no bonus, and possibly the sack.

In football, you get bought for eleventy million pounds from one club by another (probably backed as a pet project by a rich foreigner these days). You sign a multi-year contract worth, let us say £60,000 a week. In this example, we only play for England A, or are a promising young prospect, so we get paid a pittance. Relatively speaking. If we get injured, we get £60,000 a week. If we smash 5 own goals past our goalkeeper to send us tumbling out of the multi-million pound earning Champions' League, we get £60,000 that week too.

Now I know we're talking about two terribly different businesses, but you must admit there are a lot of similarities. There are issues within the banking industry, but if nothing else, know that in this country we need a banking industry, and a strong one, as we need water and air. It was never more true than now with the industrial capacities of the emerging nations eclipsing our manufacturing or service sectors. For all the ills of the banking industry, the utterly morally corrupt football business in this country could at least learn to move towards balanced books by adopting one of their policies; performance-related pay. Then at least when England crash out in the quarter finals of the next tournament to Luxembourg, you know they only got a paltry £10,000 for that week. These small victories...

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