It is a phrase and a cliché that you see all over social media, newspapers and from every patriotic veteran down at your local pub every time a new set of eye-watering financial figures relating to professional football are thrust into the news.
“To think so and so is on £150,000-a-week playing for Manchester City when the average newly qualified British soldier is on pennies!”
I hear it all the time, and each and every time it winds me up. It is naive, narrow-minded, ill-informed rubbish. If tweeted, it is usually accompanied with “#Respect” so you know the person knows what they’re talking about.
This particular cliché about footballers and soldiers is usually trotted out in response to a particular act of greed/arrogance from a well-known footballer or an act of valour from a troop.
Let me make this clear, this is in no way meant as a slight or belittlement towards what the armed forces do for our country, as they are a vital part of our country and risk their lives to protect ours. I just have a problem with the comparison and reasoning behind it.
Why are there such allegations of greed and ignorance levelled at footballers for getting paid so much? They are the people who produce the football week in and week out which entertains thousands upon thousands of people in stadiums and earning money for their clubs. This does not even take into account the tens of millions of people all over the world who are watching matches on television or online. It is also a growing market with the number of people watching Premier League football in China, India, America and South-East Asia growing year-on-year.
Without the players there is no football, no matches, no Super Sundays peddled into living rooms around the world, no Monday Night Football, no sponsorships, nothing.
So of course they are right to push for the going rate of pay in such a lucrative specialist profession. If one person in every ten thousand has the ability and talent to play top-level football then their pay should reflect that. It is a short-lived career which needs to pay for their families for the rest of their lives.
Getting back to the comparison with soldiers, it is entirely different. A vastly greater percentage of the population COULD be soldiers; I am not saying that it is an easier profession by any stretch of the imagination, but just stating a fact.
The debate over the finances and money flowing around football in the UK has been thrown into the spotlight recently as the Premier League agreed a new television rights deal with Sky Sports and BT Sport reportedly worth over £5billion.
It is a gigantic fee, there can be no doubt about that, and as is common amongst these kinds of figures, it is hard to picture in terms of real money. But when you break it down into what the ‘product’ is that is being sold, it is entirely plausible to see how the people involved reached that amount.
The line about footballers’ wages being fit for a soldier is usually thrown out by the same people who say football is a sport full of ‘pansies falling over every time they are touched’ and it’s hard to work out which phrase is more stupid.