Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Apparently there’s only one Gary Neville…

Posted by John Beech on September 28, 2009

… and he deserves every penny he receives as wages.  Well, so a flurry of recent press reports would suggest (see for example in the Daily Mail [1] or The Sun, in what I think is the original source of this story with legs [2]).

To be fair to Neville, I can’t actually find the word ‘deserve’ within quotation marks in any of the various versions of the interview that I have seen.

What he does present is an argument which explains the high wages rather than justifies them.  It is, and I am putting words in his mouth, the not unfamiliar argument that, in a free market, prices are determined by the market – an argument that the ‘going rate’ is determined by supply and demand coming into balance.

I can’ really argue with that – the market is to a very large extent a free one, having become that progressively with the abolition of the maximum wage in 1961, the George Eastham case of 1963 and more recently the Bosman ruling of 1995.  It’s not absolutely free, as Sol Campbell is finding – it would seem he can’t seek new employment until the transfer window reopens in January – but it is free enough to make the market pricing case with a reasonable degree of conviction.

He does get a bit carried away though when he says “There’s a product there that people love. Fans are crucial but without the player you have nothing.”  Take away the player and you have another player waiting to fill his boots.  Take away the fans and their wallets?  Well, we would be turning the clock back to pre-1885, and the best Neville could hope for would be a phoney job employed by the club’s Chairman.

The issue of whether Premier League players deserve the wages they are on is a fine one for the pub, but the real issue is whether the free market that sets them is sustainable.  In the case of the Premier League it is built on Debt Mountain (height – £3bn).

My totally unsolicited, and no doubt unwanted, advice to Gary Neville and his fellow players in the PL would be to invest their ample wages rather than spend them – it isn’t likely to last, whether they deserve it or not.

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