“He sold the dream of being a footballer to a group of young lads and then gave out contracts that they cannot survive on – many on way less than minimum wage.” – Torquay United manager Kevin Nicholson talking about former manager Paul Cox
The average salary of someone working in the United Kingdom is around £479 per week, this amounts to near enough £25,000 a year. From the outside most people would label football players as “overpaid”. However the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo who earn up to £400,000 a week are exceptions to the rule. As one ventures further down the leagues wages become smaller and smaller. We only ever hear about the big name players in the newspapers and therefore we assume things and create a stereotype of the typical overpaid footballer. Most people would agree for his recent performances players like Eden Hazard do not deserve to get paid what they are being paid; especially as five minutes down the road from Stamford Bridge NHS doctors are being paid tiny amounts to save lives on an hourly basis in hospitals.
However top-tier players are not the only football players in the country. There are 11 FA approved leagues in England; many of the players playing lower down will have to be working at least two jobs to feed their families every night. Torquay now playing in the National League earned an average weekly wage of £375 over £100 less than the national average. Torquay’s reserve goalkeeper Jordan Seabright quit football to become a car salesman earlier this year. These prospects face many teams as they are hit with the financial reality of life outside the Football League.
The average wage in the Conference is £28,000. This is something that players have to deal with and, when security is needed for paying bills, mortgages and providing for one’s family, the player will have to earn money elsewhere or have a partner who can cover these costs. Premier League players can sign one contract, which is usually the length of three to five years, and this will financially make them secure for the rest of their careers and probably their lives also. However, a non-league footballer, on average, will sign a one-year deal, depending on whether his club is full-time or part-time. If one is a part time player, then they will probably be on a 44-week contract, which means he will be paid for only the length of the season and not a full year’s pay. The worrying part in signing just this one-year deal is that your mortgage may be paid only for that year.
This means football players have almost no security, some do not know where they might need to relocate their families to in order to secure a job for just a year. It can be detrimental to mental health also, players might need to move their families on a yearly basis and this could damage young children growing up as well as effect any sort of family or marital relationships. This also leads to players worrying near the end of the season whether they can find somewhere new to go. This can affect form an in turn ruin prospective job opportunities as clubs come to scout you for their team. Security is something everybody wishes to have but, in football, it’s hard to predict what will happen next week let alone next year.
Stockport County defender Dale Tonge epitomises this insecure player; he said in an interview with ITV that “The perception that fans have and the general public of players at this level – especially youth players – is just ‘cos they’re at a football club means they must be on good money. That couldn’t be further from the truth. More often than not the clubs have to put them up in digs, in hotels, B&Bs, and they basically have to run their lives because they can’t afford anything else.”
Ex Leicester City centre-back Guy Branston said a similar thing: “It’s not secure, football – it’s a very insecure game. You know, the lower league lads really need to understand that it’s a short career – it’s very hard to have a two or three year career. If you’re going to be a footballer, plan for the future – what are you going to do after football?” This is a question that many young footballers forget to ask themselves. They get carried away with the situation that they find themselves in; it is their dream to be paid to play football but they do not understand the financial implications of becoming a lower league footballer.