If Abba’s “Money, Money, Money” was correct in saying “it’s always sunny in a rich man’s world”, Richard Scudamore should invest in some factor 50. The outgoing Premier League executive chairman has been given a £5m golden handshake in addition to his £2.5m annual salary by Premier League clubs.
CEO since 1999 and Executive Chairman from 2014, Scudamore has undoubtedly benefitted the League, negotiating sponsorship and broadcasting contracts worth more than £5.5b. This influx of cash helped the Premier League become the most popular league worldwide, with 3 Champions League trophies returning to our shores under Scudamore’s leadership. However, gains have not been reflected in benefits for fans and low-level workers at clubs, for whom, like for Biggie Smalls, mo’ money has meant mo’ problems.
Ticket prices have risen by as much as 150% since 1999, leading 4/5ths of young fans to declare prices an obstacle to them attending matches. This supports 56% of young fans in their claim that professional football is not run for them and challenges Scudamore’s right to a bonus. Club’s low-level workers also haven’t benefitted from the game’s increased value with only 4 teams paying the national living wage. Scudamore’s bonus could’ve paid for 2300 workers’ wages to increase to the national living wage.
The £250000 each club contributed to Scudamore’s bonus, however, pales in comparison to players’ earnings. Manchester City pay £264.1m in player’s wages annually and Premier League spending in this summer’s transfer window totalled £1.24b. Fans may not have seen the money gained by clubs over the last 2 decades due to it going to players.
However, footballers may not deserve their label as greedy, unworthy millionaires. Leaks have suggested that N'golo Kante rejected Chelsea’s offer of avoiding taxation by being paid through an offshore account. The midfielder, who drives a reasonably priced Mini, shows not all footballers demand the wages they receive, with sources close to him insisting “he just wants a normal wage”. Who then has driven wages to increase almost sevenfold since 1999?
Agents, claims West Ham co-owner David Gold, “run football”. Unlike in many professions, where agents are paid by clients, football agents are also paid by clubs, Premier League clubs spent £211m on agents last year. Agents receiving a cut of deals means they have a vested interest in upping player’s wages, and they often enter negotiations with clubs their player has no interest in joining to get a better offer from their current club.
The Premier League and FIFA have proposed legislation to stop clubs paying agents, decreasing their influence on the game. However it’s unlikely that clubs will pass this saving onto fans with stadiums 95% full despite high prices. The only way the financial rewards of the League’s worldwide popularity will be passed onto fans and workers will be with Premier League legislation. Whilst new Executive Chairman Susanna Dinnage has said she’ll prioritise reconnecting with fans, this is unlikely to happen given the clout of clubs and the rewards leaders like Scudamore gain from working in the interests of clubs.