Ever so often, a topic comes up in football that ends up pitting two sides of the room against each other in passionate debate. This week, one such issue cropped up as news broke that Premier League executive Richard Scudamore would be leaving, and receiving a handsome £5 million ‘golden handshake’ for his efforts since 1999 when he was appointed to the position.
On one hand, we have a section of fans who believe that the huge parting gift flies in the face of all that English football should represent, and on the other are those who believe that it is a deserved bonus for his efforts in making the Premier League arguably the largest sports franchise in the world.
In the Royal Blue Mersey writing team, we have two equally passionate football fans who hold strong opinions on either perspective - Matthew feels exorbitant sums of money like Scudamore’s bonus are deeply unfair when the grassroots level of the sport is struggling, while Zach holds a more pragmatic perspective that Scudamore absolutely deserves every dollar of his bonus because of how hard he has worked in his nearly twenty-year-tenure to bring the Premier League to where it is today.
Matthew: The sheer amount of the bonus appears to show that the chasm between the Premier League and the average supporter has never yawned quite so resoundingly.
Zach: But at the same time considering the league generated over £8.4bn in television deals last season, that seems quite reasonable.
Matthew: Despite such revenues, merely four of last season’s 20 top-flight teams (Chelsea, Everton, West Ham and Liverpool) paid their staff the recommended living wage (£10.20 per hour in London, £8.75 elsewhere). Scudamore would have had to work every week for about 380 years on this salary to earn the equivalent of his leaving gift.
Zach: It may be emotionally satisfying to bring up the wages of everyday staff at Premier League clubs but none of them add billions in revenue to the entire league. What we’re talking about here is a basic reality of big business. This is a small token of appreciation to an executive that clearly and obviously deserves it based on the work he does. Conversely again, for the millions he has helped the clubs earn, surely just a quarter of a million pounds each is not unreasonable, is it? Scudamore’s work justified the money in the eyes of the people he worked for.
Matthew: The Daily Mail’s Dominic King attempted to show what the total money from the two Merseyside clubs could do in a number of other situations, not least to grassroots football, which has been a seemingly irreparable state of famine for years now -
“If Liverpool and Everton were to give £500,000 to grassroots football, it would negate the council fees for all junior teams for the next couple of years; £500,000 could provide coaching courses to hundreds of volunteers, who currently have to pay £170 to obtain the FA Level 1 coaching badge.
“And £500,000 would finance the building of a 3G pitch in the city or improve the drainage on the pitches that, for most of last winter, were submerged and waterlogged; how many bibs, balls, cones and goals would clubs be able to buy with even a fraction of that money?”
Everton, like any football club, can only be one of the many beneficiaries from an improved standards of grassroots football in England. Even if it means the conditions of one more pitch are improved, or one more coach becomes qualified, or one more child is nurtured properly as a young footballer, surely the money would be going to a more worthwhile cause than it is by going to Scudamore.
For the reasons King exposed so excellently in his column, this decision is, again, unjustifiable.
Meanwhile, clubs further down the English football pyramid continue to starve despite solidarity payments from the Premier League to the Football League which last season amounted to £4.54 million per Championship club, £680,000 per League One club and £450,000 per League Two club. When placed through the prism of Scudamore’s parting gift, these figures are paltry in comparison.
Yet whose need is greater; a man on a reported salary of £900,000 per year, having already pocketed in excess of £30 million for his 19 years of service, or a club like Accrington Stanley, who used their first-ever received fee of more than £1 million for a player to fund their own training ground this summer?
Zach: The figures that the clubs lower in the pyramid receive have grown during Scudamore’s tenure because of Scudamore’s work. If you think those figures are paltry then you must be really offended by what they’d be before the work of Scudamore. Maybe the lower tier clubs should be giving him a thank you as well.
Matthew: Aside from football, there are far more important, deep-rooted issues which this money could have at least gone some way to rectifying.
Why not assist exceptional community work, such as food banks – run by fans themselves – situated outside Goodison Park and Anfield among other grounds every match day?
What about supporting the consistently excellent contributions made by Premier League clubs to children’s and homeless charities, or indeed their own charities, such as Everton in the Community?
What about donating the money to the ongoing research into links between football and dementia, or to the Jeff Astle Foundation?
Zach: Yet on the other hand, the Premier League like any other corporation is a for-profit business run like one, intent on generating revenue streams for its shareholders but at the same time also making timely and donations to good causes, just like other companies.
However, the English Premier League brings in over ten billion pounds of revenue from television alone every year. I want the proper perspective on the conversation we are having here. An executive that makes 0.000009% of that figure pure year was given a bonus that comes out to 0.0005% of that. This is what all this ranting and furor is about.
Everton, as an example, give more in charity to their local community than ever before in their history. They are able to do this because their business success is at an all time high, thanks to Scudamore. More money for the homeless and for children’s charities than ever because the English Premier League now makes billions of dollars. Clubs in leagues of fallen stature like the Eredivisie can’t do this. The success in business builds more philanthropy. We have Scudamore in large part to thank for this and we are upset about him getting less money than Everton invested in Sandro Ramirez in fee + wages.
Matthew: At times, Scudamore has seemed intent on using the Premier League as a cash cow at all costs. Take his comments in March 2014, for instance, when he called Manchester United’s slump under David Moyes ‘bad for football’, despite average viewership, at least in Britain, rising that year.
2013/14 was one of the most enthralling seasons the Premier League has ever seen, with Manchester City edging out Liverpool to the title on the final day, while United’s post-Sir Alex Ferguson decline undoubtedly made for a fascinating narrative. For Scudamore to decry this was bewildering, as a more competitive league surely makes for a more marketable product.
On the other hand, he departs with the Premier League generating almost five times as much revenue as when he arrived 19 years ago, with it now standing at roughly £5 billion. In that respect, Scudamore has, patently, transcended the higher end of English football, at least from a business viewpoint.
But in accepting this leaving present, Scudamore has jumped on the Premier League gravy train, leaving those less fortunate in English football firmly in the doldrums, perpetuating the now age-old notion that ‘the game is gone’.
Zach: Everton spent £40m on Richarlison. Their contribution to this bonus is 0.006% of that. We’re talking about a tiny sum of money in the business of the English Premier League. Getting upset about this is petty and inconsistent since similar executives in similar stature sporting leagues embarrass the small amount of money Scudamore makes. Roger Goodell of the National Football League in America (whose TV revenues are similar to the English Premier League) makes £24.8 million a year. If you balk at the comparison to an American sport, Javier Tebas of La Liga makes over a million pounds a year for a league that is not nearly as commercially successful. Scudamore has been underpaid his entire career.
In closing, our two writers agreed to disagree.
As Matthew says, there is a certain perversion in how much money is being offered to Scudamore as a farewell present when your everyday supporter is struggling to pay for his season ticket.
“I’m just saying a man who is worth £20 million+ and will almost certainly retire with an sizeable pension is not more deserving of these clubs’ money than those who genuinely need it.”
Zach closes with the argument that this is not lived out consistently especially if you rejoice when your club makes multi million pound signings, talks about building a new stadium that seats over 50,000 people, signs huge sponsorship deals and gets broadcast on TV all around the world. A few million in a one time payment in exchange for billions and billions of revenue is simple common sense and what is good for everyone.
What do you think?