Players, Salaries and . . . . . . the Micawber Principle!!

The character Mr Micawber in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield is a good source of quotes on the subject of happiness. In the novel, Micawber, an eternal optimist, is repeatedly convinced that ‘something will turn up’. His name is often used to refer to someone who lives in a constant expectation of a better life. A Dickens quote has even given rise to the “Micawber Principle”:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds and six. Result Happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six. Result misery.”

Following the massive and, some may say, obscene “splash of cash” during last season’s summer transfer window by Premier League clubs (led by the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool), money is a popular subject in the world of football and often spent by those who can least afford to!

It is fully expected that there will be equal “madness” when the new summer transfer window merry-go-round starts on 1 July, with again the big clubs of Chelsea, Manchester, Arsenal and Liverpool all at the forefront.

Whilst we see the huge sums of money which players attract in transfer fees, perhaps however, the biggest sums are spent on the weekly wages of players. But how does the Premier League compare to its continental counterparts?

Reputedly, Frank Lampard commands a hefty £213,000 a week. His Chelsea team-mate, Fernando Torres, isn’t far behind with £210,000 a week. John Terry also weighs in with around £200,000 a week. One month after sealing Chelsea’s victory in the European Champions League final, Didier Drogba signed with Shanghai Shenhua on a two-year contract that will reportedly make him China’s highest-paid player. The two-time African footballer of the year will reportedly be paid £200,000 ($315,000).

Other teams in the Premiership have similarly large wage bills. At Liverpool, Steven Gerrard is reportedly on £187,000 a week and Luis Suarez makes £90,000 a week. One would expect Manchester City players to be well paid; allegedly Tevez makes £125,000.00 a week, with Yaya Toure, apparently earning £180,000 a week.

Over at Old Trafford it is rumoured that Manchester United pays Wayne Rooney £260,000 a week. It is, however, important to note that football on the Continent doesn’t come cheap either.
At Barcelona, the world’s No.1 footballer, Lionel Messi reputedly commands a weekly wage of over £250,000. Xavi makes a nice £187,000 whilst fellow World Cup winners Iniesta and Puyol apparently earn £185,000 and £218,000 a week respectively.

However, it can be argued that even Barcelona’s salaries are dwarfed by Real Madrid. It has been reported that midfielder Kaka, is worth £313,000 Monday to Friday and apparently the biggest weekly wage, in Europe, goes to Christiano Ronaldo on an astounding £451,000 a week!

With such mind-boggling figures it could be the case that these players are indeed “worth their weight in gold”. However, as a consequence of the “drip effect” down the league structures and the use of comparable examples, some players in the Premiership seem to be vastly overpaid. For example, Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott apparently earns £90,000 a week – more than Micheal Essien at Chelsea, and almost as much as Schweinsteiger, who was one of the stars of Germany’s 2010 World Cup campaign.

Of course such salaries may pale in comparison with the salaries paid to major American sports stars where the likes of Le Bron James (Miami Heat – NBA) reputedly earns $14,500,000 a year and Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees – MBL) reputedly earns $32,000,000, these salaries being largely achieved through commercial sponsorships.

To put things into perspective, compared with the “normal” man in the street – a newly qualified teacher, will expect to earn £18,750 a YEAR, a newly qualified nurse, if they’re lucky, will earn £18,240 a YEAR and an average police constable earns £23,259 a YEAR.

Given the new tough-talking initiative, Financial Fair Play (FFP) – designed to crack down on debt-laden clubs or controversial practices – hopefully clubs will see the sense of the Micawber Principle. However, we should not hold our breath. When the Premier League privately canvassed clubs with the idea of introducing wage caps, in a bid to combat the problems caused by obscene wage bills, unfortunately, only a few Premier League clubs went along with the idea!

So notwithstanding the madcap world of professional football and the uncertainty of the current commercial climate one can only hope that sooner or later clubs will reflect on and embrace the Micawber Principle!

Stephen J Lownsbrough
Associate & Head of Sport
Blacks Solicitors LLP
Tel: +44 (0) 113 207 0000
Email: SLownsbrough@LawBlacks.com

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