I was brought up to believe that good manners are incredibly important. A particular issue that sticks in my mind is one of questions. There were certain things that you should never ask anyone, (quite why I knew this as a child is a mystery). Inquiring into a woman’s age was a no-no, as was asking how somebody had voted in an election but one of the real taboos was wages. It was, (and still is for many people) a real social faux-pas to ask how much a person earned. To this day I have no idea what my Dad earns and I wouldn’t dream of asking him. This childhood lesson in etiquette has reared its head recently as I try to understand why we are so interested in how much money a professional footballer is paid.
Samir Nasri and Luka Modric have both been in the spotlight recently for reasons surrounding possible transfers. One of them moved and one didn’t but so much has been written, tweeted and commented on about the personal finances involved. Nasri was roundly condemned by supporters for moving purely because of money. This conveniently brushed over the fact that whilst the Frenchman was indeed getting a huge wage increase, he was almost certainly joining a squad closer to a Premier League title than his first English employers. Reports suggesting that Nasri had tripled his wages by joining Roberto Mancini’s Eastlands outfit made some people froth at the mouth. Whilst the numbers mentioned might not be entirely accurate huge swathes were not happy. Accusations of greed, stupidity and ignorance were just some of the nicer things levelled at the 24-year-old.
In a similar vein Harry Redknapp accused Chelsea of turning Luka Modric’s head with a huge pay increase ignoring the fact that Spurs had stagnated somewhat after a fantastic Champions League run. Nobody could have blamed Modric for leaving Tottenham for footballing reasons, he is one of the best players in his position anywhere in the world. He would walk into virtually any team in Europe, in fact it was said by many that Barcelona would do better purchasing the Croatian rather than pursuing Cesc Fabregas. Redknapp painted a picture where Tottenham were being forced out of the market by wages rather than career prospects. What was clear in both cases was that wages seemed to form the crux of many arguments against both transfers. Why would already wealthy young men want to be paid more than the vast sums they already received? In my opinion this forgets a rather large point, it isn’t actually any of our business.
We live in a world in which the culture of celebrity is fast becoming all-encompassing. The devotion to covering every detail in the lives of the rich and famous means I now know things I have no use for. I know that David Beckham is obsessively compulsive about the amount of drinks in his fridge. I know that Justin Bieber plans to be married by the age of 25. These are things wedged firmly in my brain that outside of writing this blog I will never need. I also know that Samir Nasri earns somewhere in the of £170k per week for playing football. The one thing that all these facts have in common is that they are nothing to do with me.
All too often for my liking we hear the phrase “footballers’ wages are disgusting”. Well, guess what, we made that happen. Stirling work everyone, I’m sure Shaun Wright-Phillips salutes you. By buying into the huge circus that is the Premier League either through Sky subscriptions or paying for vastly inflated season tickets we have created the monster we are so quick to denounce. Whatever rights this wholehearted devotion gets you what it doesn’t buy is the right to pry into another person’s financial matters. Each month I spend a large chunk of cash in Sainsbury’s. As long as the food is in good condition and the checkout staff aren’t telling me to bugger off I’m happy. I don’t feel that as a customer, who in a roundabout way, contributes to the lovely bonuses the board members pay themselves I have a right to ask the kid on the cigarette counter how much he is getting paid.
I recently read an article in which the writer appeared shocked by the fact that Wayne Bridge, a man reputedly earning £90k per week, would spend most of his time as an unused substitute. It seemed strange to me that his wages were the focal point of the argument rather than anything to do with the job he was being paid to do. It was as though Bridge should almost be ashamed of earning that much whilst not turning out every week. Why? By all means question the man’s sporting integrity but linking it to his pay cheque is ludicrous.
I’m not sure if we, as fans, believe that the amounts of money involved means that we should have unfettered access to a player’s private life. I’m not even sure where the indignation towards wages stems from bearing in mind that it’s our adoration of these young men that has created the situation we find ourselves in. As football fans we should be more focused on what our heroes do on the pitch rather than how much their bank accounts are swelling off it. If we are all so obsessed by the money around then perhaps it is time to switch the posters of Lionel Messi for ones of Robert Peston.
Follow George on Twitter @george_ogier