Cesc Fabregas Kissing Barcelona Badge (image from http://www.shutterstock.com – Public Domain Photography)
When professional football players score a goal, they run to the fans and kiss the badge, trying to show how much they love the club, and profess their supposed loyalty.
In these times of globalised football, with market forces fully letting rip, mercenary players and their agents benefit from huge amounts of money. The same supposedly “loyal” players are soon on their way to a new club – and then repeat the same trick of kissing the badge. This annoys fans and some players like Jack Wilshere, and rightly so.
There are exceptions. Some players like Matt Le Tissier, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard stay loyal to one club, but many move very frequently with agents reaping much of the reward through the various benefits they earn out of a players move.
Instead of really loving the club, are the badge-kissers really kissing the money the badge represents?
Whilst players and agents get such outrageous payouts, the local community and its residents get almost nothing and stadia are not invested in (with some notable exceptions). Grass roots football is suffering, and the England team continues to fail. Meanwhile, countries like Germany have taken action – and beaten Brazil 7-1 to take their place in the World Cup Final!
I was reliably informed at both Supporters Direct and Football Supporters Foundation conferences that the siphoning off of megawads of money to players and agents is known in football circles as the “prune juice effect” – money “goes straight through the club” and into the pockets of players and their agents. Wage inflation is out of control, despite clubs like Portsmouth and Rangers going or almost going to the wall and many others limping along.
So whilst the players are coining tens of thousand of pounds a week, and others are raking in hundreds of thousands, some staff at football clubs are not being paid the living wage. This is outrageous, and I with Labour Friends of Football are campaigning for all professional football clubs to pay the living wage.
To add insult to injury, football clubs use ingenious ways to extract money from local authorities that are already very hard-pressed by Coalition Government funding cuts. Clubs set up charities and “foundations”. But as I successfully pointed out last year with my local Premier League club, and the local paper editorial agreed, the local authorities may not fund true local voluntary sports organisations – but do give grants to such “charities”. Some such charities or foundations do valuable work in the community, but why is at the tax-payers expense and the expense of true voluntary organisations? It just isn’t right.
Often, the football club’s charities are virtually indistinguishable from the club itself – but they gain public funds through a “separate” organisation. Whilst this is legal, it is certainly not moral. I’ve spoken with many people who agree, many of them not football fans. Instead, players must make a better contribution to local communities, and to be more than tokenism, this must be financial. Some players, like Carragher and Linvoy Primus, are doing this already. But they are few and far between, and players need to contribute more finance.
Barcelona have imposed a community levy that comes from their players pay, and is channelled into local community projects. Whilst we have been advised that employment law provisions may apply (e.g. on lawful deductions), there are absolutely no substantial reasons why all British clubs that pay such massive wages to players, should not follow the lead of one of the world’s largest fan-owned clubs.
These multi-million or even multi-billion pound revenue football businesses should set up a community fund by players, and stop sponging off the taxpayer for their community work.
So we say that players shouldn’t kiss the badge – they should put their hands in their pockets!
Councillor Andrew Pope
Vice-Chair and Co-Founder of Labour Friends of Football
Labour PPC for New Forest East