Footballers 'net 1,500% pay rise over 20 years'

Criticism of high wages could be about to spread from the City to Manchester City after a report found footballers have seen vast pay rises in the last 20 years.

Top footballers have enjoyed pay rises of 1,500% over the past two decades, well ahead of the 186% increase that the average UK worker has picked up during the same period, according to research by think tank the High Pay Centre.

Players’ wages now take up 70% of a club’s turnover, whereas it was just 48% back in 1997, the report found. Fans are footing the bill for “excessive” wages and the cheapest available ticket for top games has gone up by more than 1,000% since 1989.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is thought to be among the top paid footballers in the country, with his latest contract netting him a reported £8m a year. Rooney also benefits from lucrative sponsorship deals with Nike and Electronic Arts.

But while the Premier League’s top earners receive the adulation of the fans and pick up astronomical wages, figures in the City are derided for picking up comparatively less.

RBS CEO Stephen Hester’s £1.2m salary came under scrutiny earlier this year. The pressure became so great he even forfeited his £1m bonus.

Last year, the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (November 2011) was issued using data from HM Revenue & Customs and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax records.

It found directors and chief executives of major organisations were picking up an average annual wage of £112,157, significantly higher than the average salary of £26,200 for full-time employees.

Financial managers and chartered secretaries received an average wage of £53,944, while financial institution managers picked up a salary of £43,141.

Dave Boyle, author of the report on footballers’ wages, said: “Over the last 30 years we have seen massive increases in players’ salaries, accompanying this we have witnessed many fans priced out of the market, levels of debt that would be unsustainable in any other business and a national team that is continually out-performed by teams from much poorer football countries.”

Nick Isles, chairman of the High Pay Centre, said: “Bankers and company executives frequently make the comparison between their own pay and that of professional footballers.

“There are similarities. For both the pay is extremely high, excessively complex and in many cases, secret. In football as in business, the money could be better invested in training and infrastructure, rather than unsustainable salary increases.

“It may now be time to put the brakes on this dramatic escalation in pay at the top. We are calling for a national debate on what is fair pay for those at the top of our companies, banks and football leagues.”

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