Wages in relation to Worth

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 10th Aug 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

The age old question of players and if they deserve the wages they command.

Are footballers worth their wages?

My friends and I managed to attend our teams the opening game of the 2018/19 ABSA Premiership season against one of our clubs provincial rivals. During the match, one of our forwards was having a poor game and when he missed another opportunity; my boy let out an exasperated sigh and loudly complained:

“Ag, this guy is a useless cow. Even I could’ve scored that.”

Before going on about how overpaid most footballers are.

Now while my friends and I could never hope to play professionally, his diatribe did bring up an impromptu discussion amongst the boys.

Do players deserve their wages?

Recent stats released show that the average monthly wage for an ABSA Premiership player is forty four thousand rands (R44 000). While it must be noted that the average wage is high because some players earn well over a hundred thousand rands (R100 000) a month, footballers generally earn more than most skilled personnel.

In 2011, then Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner, a player who was at the time reported to be earning fifty thousand pounds per week claimed that he deserves that sort of pay on the basis that he entertains people just as movie stars do.

“I am in the football business and, at the highest level, where Arsenal are, football is first-class entertainment”. “So it is wrong to compare my salary to the salary of businessmen - compare it to movie actors instead”.

“It is always fair to ask whether the players are worth the incredible amounts of money we earn and ask whether we earn too much. I believe we must be worth our salaries because that is how the mechanisms of the society work. As long as I work as hard as I can, I believe I am worth what is coming my way”.

In his interview, Bendtner does make some valid points but at the same time, to simply suggest that he deserves what he earns because he works hard is disingenuous about what gives him and other footballers the advantage to ask for high wages.

Everybody works hard.

If I can use myself as an example, I work twelve hours a day for measly amounts, regularly work overtime for no pay and put in a lot of effort into what I do yet I am not as valued to my company as footballers are to their clubs.

Why is that?

Economic theory explains income differences in terms of marginal productivity which basically means that the more output is delivered, the higher the wage. The more I am able to contribute to the company’s profit margin, the more valued I will become but because I am not in a position where my input to the company directly affects profits in the same manner as a CEO, the company will provide me with a wage suitable for my position.

Simply put, I don’t have the bargaining power.

There are millions of people out who are willing and able to do my job whereas there aren’t that many people in the country who are good enough to become a professional footballer and these players make up an elite group who can do what most people can’t.

Looking at the last released figures of the highest paid footballers in the country:
• Siphiwe Tshabalala – R380,000
• Anthony Laffor – R380,000
• Steven Pienaar – R425,000
• Ejike Uzoenyi – R450,000
• Teko Modise – R450,000
• Itumeleng Khune – R480,000

Anthony Laffor, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Itu Khune were always key figures in their teams but at one point, they were playing well to the point where they had attracted attention from abroad and to retain their services, both Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns renewed their contracts to secure their futures at their respective clubs. Steven Pienaar had just been released from Sunderland and believing him to still have the ability to be a central figure in the team, Wits offered him that bumper contract. Teko Modise is probably the first footballer to blow up within the Social Media age and as a result, offered a lot in terms of marketability and while he is in the twilight of his career, he is still a player who can do a serviceable job in midfield which probably led Cape Town City to sign him.

Uzoenyi turned out to be an expensive bust but the point is that all these players were in a position to negotiate the best contracts in the league because they met a need that their respective clubs had.

The bigger problem lies in the fact that there is no set metric that can determine what a players wage should be simply because player form fluctuates wildly, making it impossible for clubs to accurately determine what a players wage should be.

Another thing that players take into account while negotiating their wages is that their careers don’t last long. Most footballers have a career span of ten years (if they are lucky) to which afterwards they are released where for most, an uncertain future awaits. By them receiving such large wages, they are ensuring their financial safety for when their playing days have long past.

With footballer wage information being so accessible to the public, coupled with the fact that South Africa has one of the world’s largest wealth inequalities and that the footballing demographic within the country is comprised largely of the working poor, the subject will naturally ruffle some feathers however if one was to think about it, the animosity shouldn’t be towards the players but rather towards the clubs. After all, football clubs are the ones paying the players.

I guess that at the end of it all; like art, a players worth in both wages and transfer fees is subjective.

For more on the Bendtner interview, please check the link:


Football Soccer, Opinion, Wages

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author avatar Memba Ben
A fan's view on the business of football.

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author avatar writestuff
1st Nov 2018 (#)

Interesting Read. Thanks for sharing your views on subject.

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author avatar Memba Ben
1st Nov 2018 (#)

Hi writestuff

Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you enjoyed it.

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