If a journalist was to ask any group of people what their favourite sport was, it wouldn’t be too difficult to predict that football would be the main answer. For years and years, football has stood head and shoulders above all others in proclaiming itself to be the most popular sport in the world. People are born and as soon as they can walk, they are playing football, with their support for their clubs being a prominent fixture in their lives. It is a pastime unlike any other, which captures fans with its moments of skill, enthusiasm and outright drama. But it is difficult to ignore that despite this, there is an ethical conundrum surrounding the sport. This is evident in the salaries of the players, and the disproportionate amounts of money which some clubs are able to call upon.

When the average salary in the UK is £26,500 a year, with there already being a huge disparity between the rich and the poor, it begs the question as to how a player can earn upwards of £20-30,000 a week and still feel hard done by when they don’t get that raise they believe they deserve. Some young players in today’s game are expecting to earn upwards of £30,000 a week as soon as they make it big in the sport, and it is only a matter of time until clubs in the top flight will be begging for a rich oil tycoon to buy their club in order to have some inkling of being able to challenge for honours domestically and abroad. Luke Shaw was signed by Manchester United for £30 million, a world record for a teenager. He is 19-years-old, and he is earning approximately £80,000 a week.

Football has always been a sport of excess, where the top players earn salaries that most people would only dream of having, but it begs the question: Is this going to get worse in the years to come? Even when adjusted for inflation, today’s transfer fees are in excess of what was considered normal or expensive in the past. Alan Shearer’s record transfer fee of £15 million now stands at around an estimated £50 million. Considering he is one of, if not the greatest strikers in Premier League history, it stands to allow the question of how a player like David Luiz, good as he may be, is worth a staggering £40 million. People who watched the World Cup semi-final would suggest that this fee could be seen as quite high, one which Chelsea manager José Mourinho would be quite proud of. The equivalent to Shearer in 1996 would be Luis Suarez in modern football, with his transfer to FC Barcelona standing at £75 million. When comparing the two fees, and how much money has been pumped into the sport over those years in-between, £20-25 million is an astounding difference.

UEFA have attempted to quell these worries by introducing Financial Fair Play (FFP), in the hopes of avoiding situations where clubs are spending outside of their limits. It stipulates that clubs must break even over a certain period of time in order to avoid transfer sanctions or fines. So far, it has been relatively successful. Clubs, such as Chelsea, have made great attempts to ensure they are within the boundaries of FFP. Those that haven’t complied, such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, have been fined and subsequently punished, through squad restrictions in the Champions League. However, it is only a matter of time before loopholes will be found. Some could say it has already begun, with Manchester City buying clubs all over the world to enhance their brand visibility. As these clubs are owned by Manchester City, there is the potential for these smaller clubs to become feeder clubs, therefore sidestepping FFP regulations. It is still early days, with no problems arising yet, but let’s hope this doesn’t become a situation which is exacerbated, leading to other clubs of financial superiority following suit.

Don’t believe that this opinion is intended to promote the view that football is merely a morally ambiguous sport, filled with greedy, money-hogging people. This opinion comes from an avid football fan, who only wants to see games contested on an even playing field, where clubs are able to succeed solely based on their ability on the pitch, rather than the depths of their owners’ pockets.

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