If I'd not landed my dream job at Stewart Finance, I'd probably have had a go at being a professional footballer. I mean, the money's not bad, you get to be outdoors a lot of the time and I've never liked wearing a suit.

But how good is the money, would I really have been better off choosing professional football over Stewart Finance?

Top payers

After a bit of digging about, it seems the top three payers in world sport are Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus. Barcelona pay on average a salary of just under £10 million a year to each of the players in their first team squad. Obviously this figure doesn't include any signing-on fees or bonuses for scoring goals and winning trophies - I presume this is just in case £10 million isn't enough to get you to give it a decent go on a Saturday afternoon. Now, if you're the best player in the world, which I probably would have been, then expect to pocket upwards of £50 million for your year's work! What on earth does Lional Messi spend a million quid a week on? I hope he likes shopping, I imagine his girlfriend does!!

Amongst the world's top ten paying teams, the other highest payers are all American basketball teams. Actually the NBA is the best paying sports league in the world, more so than soccer, sorry, association football, and also higher than American Football and baseball. Although I've never really seen the attraction myself in those US sports. But perhaps in the unlikely event I'd not made the grade in football, I could have a crack at basketball!!

English Football

Manchester City is the highest paying football team in England, but only pays on average 70% of Barcelona's salaries. However, the English Premier League is the highest paying football league in the world. A money making machine driven by its popularity around the globe and the sale of its domestic and worldwide television rights. Rights which currently generate £4 billion a year,almost double those of Spain's La Liga.

Ground Attendances

In line with the rising salaries, ground attendances in England are also increasing. This year average attendances are on course to better 39,000, which, if they do, would beat the average attendance record that still stands from the 1948/49 seasom. But despite being the most popular sporting league in the world, attendances are lower than the USA's NFL (which average 67,000 per match) and Germany's Bundesliga (43,000 per match).


However all this money sloshing about in England has not necessarily been spent wisely. According to some very clever and complicated (and apparently unbiased) research, as a whole the English Premier League (along with Italy to a lesser extent) are relative under achievers in Europe. Some English clubs are paying about twice as much in salaries to their players to get comparable results to their European counterparts in La Liga and the Bundesliga.

Talking of under achieving, there have been a few under performing teams in the Premier League so far this season. The most obvious being Arsenal who are the fourth biggest payers and yet languish in 10th position at the moment. And the two Manchester clubs could also be considered to be under performing given they are the highest payers in the league.

Although their current league positions aren't too bad, their points totals aren't exactly what they would have hoped for!

Over Achievers

But let's raise our hats to the stand out over achievers at the halfway mark - Leicester, Wolves and Sheffield Utd. Especially Sheffield Utd, they are the lowest spending club in the league paying 'just' £700,000 per player and yet find themselves up at 6th! Let's see if they can keep that up over the second half of the season.

Greater Depth

For all it's faults, the English Premier League is the most balanced of the big European leagues. Okay, there is still a hierarchy based on financial strength and to a lesser degree historical fan bases. But the spread of wages and support throughout the league is far more even than in Spain, Italy, Germany and France. In Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid and to a lesser degree Atletico Madrid dominate. In Italy, Juventus currently dwarf the other contenders, as Bayern Munich do in Germany and as PSG do in France. Whereas in England, there's a top six as well as clubs such as Leicester challenging these established powers. Perhaps this deep competitiveness goes a long way to explaining the Premier League's popularity around the world, which leads to its fantastical salaries.

Perhaps I would have been better off playing professional. But then, money's not everything, is it?

With thanks to the Global Sports Salaries Survey 2019 by Sporting Intelligence https://www.globalsportssalaries.com/

By Matthew Birt

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