Football's crazy wage sustainability

This week saw the usual media orgy surrounding the publication of Deloitte's annual review of football finance. It received more eager column inches than the new head of the World Bank and Google's latest moves in the war with Microsoft combined.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The accountant's message however remains the same: utterly crazy amounts of money being paid to the players in the Premiership. The headline findings were as follows: players' wages are still soaring, with average earnings for a Premiership player likely to exceed £1m next season; the total wage bill will rise above £1bn next season; and the first £10m a year player is now only a couple of seasons away. But most amazingly of all, the number crunchers at Deloitte's say it's all sustainable - the crucial wages to turnover ratio of 62% is fairly stable as TV money continues to rise. Is MT alone in seeing a bubble just aching to burst?

Some of us here are old enough to remember the legendary Brian Clough and have read the extraordinary novel about him, 'The Damned Utd' by David Peace (Faber & Faber), now to be made into an unlikely feature film directed by Stephen 'The Queen' Frears. It's well worth reading for insights into Clough's bizarre management style. Never mind the sulks, brandy, tantrums and smashing up offices, when Cloughie found a player he fancied and wanted to buy he would discover where they lived, go round, knock on the door and move in - including cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast - until the subject relented and signed on the dotted line. (The typical Derby County salary in 1973 was £250 a week 'plus promotion bonuses'.) Sounds like the kind of behaviour that wouldn't be beyond the Special One, Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

And if you return to the 1940s and '50s things were even more back to basics. Players rode their bike to the stadium, went back to their trade of butcher or baker during the summer and, if they were put on the transfer list, weren't paid any wages at all. Never did them any harm…

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