The Tevez anguish

Argentine footballer Carlos Tevez is out of favour with his manager in Manchester City FC and wants to move. He is deeply unhappy, perhaps depressed, and is desperate to get away from Manchester. ‘Oh dry the starting tear’, as WS Gilbert once wrote in a poem, because a solution is in view: Italian club AC Milan is prepared to take him on loan and pay him his salary of, wait for it, £200,000 per week. That’s £10.4 million per annum.

So let’s see where that places him in the general league table of millionaires. It is, as it happens, almost exactly the same pay as is earned (and I’m using the word with a straight face) by the chief executive of Barclays Bank, Robert Diamond. But it is much more than the paltry £2.2 million earned by the chief executive of Ireland’s largest company, the Smurfit Kappa group, Gary McGann. Furthermore it is three times what Tevez’s manager at Manchester City, Roberto Mancini, earns, and 20 times the pay of Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew.

It may seem that highly paid university heads should stay clear of this subject, but I’ll venture forth anyway. Football is becoming crazy, and we are setting up conditions in which over-hyped prima donnas (even when talented, as Tevez is) destroy themselves and others around them while burning an amount of money that they do not, in any objective sense, actually earn. This in turn feeds from an over-priced system of television rights and season tickets, and it is turning a people’s sport into something that is as much soap opera as it is football.

I do not object to high salaries for footballers. They only have so much time in which to earn it. But £10 million p.a. is way beyond what is needed to set them up for life. In the meantime, this extraordinary business model is subverting the ideals of the game.

I know I’m not saying anything new here. But I’m saying it anyway. This cannot go on, or at any rate it shouldn’t.

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21 Comments on “The Tevez anguish”

  1. Allan Harrison Says:

    You are correct. If the Sky money dries up or the billionaires who finance these clubs go elsewhere, then the EPL is finished. We need to look no further than the SPL and the collapse of Setanta deal to see what effect that had. We now have Rangers and Hearts in financially perilous positions due to living beyond their means for years, paying salaries (or in Hearts case, partially paying) which their business model can’t sustain.

  2. don Says:

    O come on…the markets dictate the value/price of every commodity and every industry. It’s all about ‘what can I get for my service/product’? – what will the market bear? Ferdinand, how you have fallen into the trapping of judging what someone else should earn! Is it envy/begrdgery? How do you know what he needs to ‘set him up for life’? How do you know that he doesn’t give a proportion of his earnings to charities, Argentinian football development agencies to help disadvantaged youngsters? How do you know? Leave him alone.

  3. Beth Duff Says:

    Yes – I hope that whoever looks into high pay includes footballers and pop “stars”…… but I think I am probably being very optimistic.

  4. So, what would constitute a fair wage for him? Or more interestingly, what criteria would you use in determining it and what would be your quantitative procedure for arriving at that amount?

  5. don Says:

    The market, the market…this, and and not fairness, dictates value. Anyway, who said anything about fairness, particularly on the football field or in the football industry? Managers complain about refs and (big) clubs complain about the FA (in the UK). The football industry uses somewhat nebulous criteria to evaluate a footballer’s value: skill-set, age, fitness, character, maturity, caps won – all these and more go towards the evaluation process, hence the price a club is prepared to pay. If someone can produce an algorithm or a quantitative procedure that Brian (above) seeks then they are a genius – in the meantime, it’s the market, my dear man, the market…

    • Don,mthat is the question: is football a sport or a business? I’m no longer sure it can be both.

      • Don Says:

        It’s not a case of ‘either-or’ – football, of the professional variety, is both. Pro football is, however, principally a business: footballers make a living, earn a wage. They entertain to satisfy a demand, and someone makes a profit on the back of this demand. Once profit comes into the frame, there’s competition – competition produces a market…and there you are. However, you and I Ferdinand can still kick a ball around the green for ‘sport’ or watch others, perhaps amateurs, doing likewise in perhaps a more organised and satisfying manner. That’s not a business, in the accepted ‘for profit’ mode – that’s just ‘sport’.

      • Try asking the “sport or business” question about higher education. There might be a whole lot of other values and symbolic practices that people cherish, some of which might be fairly peculiar to outsiders (graduation ceremonies for one), but could you run a university as anything other than a business? Football just makes a few things more obvious, including the relationships with commercial sponsors, but give us time.

        In other words, I think what you’re talking about with your highly paid footballer is an attraction and retention bonus. Do you object to these on principle, or is it just the scale that bothers you?

        The problem isn’t business so much as PR: how to make these business deals seem to align with the sentimental values of the sport. Maybe football and higher education could figure out a combined approach.

  6. anna notaro Says:

    The question of whether it is sport or business it is not (sadly) anymore an either/or question as Don says, however contrary to Don I do resist the market logic which dictates the *value* of every commodity, being a football star or (and in this case the sadness increases considerably) education. The phenomenon of the highly paid footballer is just emblematic of the kind of society we live in where ‘the battle to bring down social inequality’ to quote from a piece in The Guardian ( has failed to the point that we are on a par with Victorian society. More recently the BBC reported that pay for the directors of the UK’s top businesses rose 50% over the past year. and this in spite of the recent crisis caused, mostly, by the finance sector.
    The Occupy Wall Street Movement ( with its slogan “We are the 99%” is significat in that it denounces exactly the constant growing wealth disparity in the United States.
    In The Spirit Level; Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (2009) Wilkinson and Pickett argued, convincingly, that the societies of Britain and the US are dysfunctional because they have institutionalised economic and social inequality to the extent that, at any one time, a quarter of their respective populations are mentally ill. So, it is not only the case to condemn the ‘extraordinary business model’ which subverts the ideals of the football game, rather one should denounce a distorted business models which subverts the most cherished societal ideals which bond us together as functional communities

    • kevin denny Says:

      Actually most scholarly reviews of The Spirit Level find it extremely unconvincing. Like a lot of social epidemiology, trying to infer effects on individuals from the characteristics of society is almost impossible, a difficulty they largely ignore. They have some correlations thats all.
      Inevitably some folks, like VinB, queue up to cheerlead it though.

      • anna notaro Says:

        This is not entirely true Kevin.One of the most interesting reviews is the one in the London Review of Books of 22 Oct. 2009 which acknowledges how ‘messy’ to quote from the review’s title the whole matter is and yet recognizes the powerful evidence produced by such scrupolous researchers. At the end of the day this is only a contribution nit the definitive answer to the equality debate

        • kevin denny Says:

          Anna I said “most”: how is that not entirely true?? My clear sense was that the more scholarly reviews (& by people with no ideological axe to grind one way or another) for example the paper by Deaton (below) or the papers cited there by Lynch et al. essentially reject the Spirit Level hypothesis:

          Click to access What_does_the_empirical_evidence_tell_us_about_the_injustice.pdf

          This is not a general debate about whether inequality is good or bad but a specific contention about its effect on average health. Cross country (or cross state) correlations are just not informative by themselves.

  7. The trouble with condemning the market model (which certainly has its problems) for determining wages in football or in any domain, is that it is not helpful unless one can propose a better procedure. We have generally tested and discarded ideas like “pay everyone the same” or “pay everyone the same hourly rate” or “decide remuneration by central committee”. I’m sure you all knew that this is why I asked the question:

    “So, what would constitute a fair wage for him? Or more interestingly, what criteria would you use in determining it and what would be your quantitative procedure for arriving at that amount?”

    But, not surprisingly, no-one has made any suggestions?

    I had this same discussion on G+ a little while ago when someone declared that it was unacceptable that 1% of the world’s population controlled 35% of the wealth. This begs the question that if it is acceptable that X% of the population can control Y% of the world’s wealth (X<Y), then what is X and Y and how would you arrive at these figures?

  8. anna notaro Says:

    *The trouble with condemning the market model (which certainly has its problems) for determining wages in football or in any domain, is that it is not helpful unless one can propose a better procedure.*
    Brian, the trouble, to use your words lies not with the critique, but remains with the object of such critique, in other words criticizing an assumption without necessarily putting forward an alternative model does not affect necessarily the validity of the criticism.
    Having said that there is a lot that our political institutions could do to correct and sanction some of the most unethical and socially unfair mechanisms that characterize our predominant economic model. If anything the current economic crisis has shown that are in urgent need of a new ‘social pact’, to quote the old Rousseau, one which emcompasses the political, economic, social and industrial relations and to construct a new consensus among the various actors (states and individuals, employers and workers) on the main directions of economic and social policy. One of the main areas of interventions should be taxation, the so-called Robin Hood Tax
    on the financial sector is only one example.
    Secondly, I agree with Dan Gillmor when, paraphrasing the Occupy Wall Street Movement, he argues that we should fight to ‘occupy language’. and that the struggle is over meaning. Here is what he has to say: ‘When we say someone is worth this much or that much money, we are (as with “earn”) freighting the statement with the assumption that the person did something to deserve it, and equating wealth with human value. It may be true in some cases, but if we’re talking about the new robber barons, what many of them truly deserve is a jail cell. Instead of saying someone is worth so much, I would say he or she has financial holdings of that amount, or wealth of such-and-such…But emotionally slanted language – even when it’s been widely used for decades – has helped the banksters and their allies profit so outrageously. If we’re going to take back our societies from the people who looted the economy, we need to use every honest means at our disposal. Language should be part of that strategy.
    As you see, this is not just a battle over figures, of X<Y, it's much more complex than that, it entails some serious rethinking of our humanist/societal values and of the forms of (economic) governance that are best suited to correct the mistakes of the past, the economic crisis, in spite of the all the pain that it is causing also represents a great opportunity to do just that!

  9. Vince Says:

    I’m not so certain you’ve hit the precise comparison. Is it not more a pairing with top lawyers than top bank exec’s. And then would you have such an issue.

    • anna notaro Says:

      Vince, the question is not whether to establish a more accurate comparison to lawyers or banks exec’s. I am trying to frame the issue of social (un)equality within a much bigger picture. As the critic Judith Butler has noticed commenting upon the Occupy Wall Stret Movement ‘Our individual well being depends on whether the social and economic structures that support our mutual dependency can be put into place’. Unfortunately neo-liberal economics has almost destroyed our social bond to the point that individuals are merely defined by what they can buy or their ‘contribution to the economy’. Speaking of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, one of the reasons why it has captured people’s imagination on a global scale is that it has revived the old idea of radical action based on the ‘forgetful sense’, the ability to act in spite of uncertainty of consequence, this is what Nieztsche had in mind when he defined the ‘joyful deed’:
      ‘belief in the future, the joyful deed- all depend [on knowing] the right time to forget as well as the right time to remember, and instinctively see when it is necessary to feel historically and when unhistorically [both being] equally necessary to the health of an individual, a community and a system of culture’ (The Use and Abuse of History for Life 1874)

      As educators we might like to strive to keep the love for the ‘joyful deed’ alive in the new generations…

      • Vince Says:

        What Nietzsche always had in his mind was the pass of Thermopylae. And not the Iranian side either.

        I lean towards Archilochus, this I lifted from wiki. Twill do;

        Some Saian mountaineer
        Struts today with my shield.
        I threw it down by a bush and ran
        When the fighting got hot.
        Life seemed somehow more precious.
        It was a beautiful shield.
        I know where I can buy another
        Exactly like it, just as round.

        • Don Says:

          What Tevez had in HIS mind was the pass of (a) Hero, d’ya remember the one where he lifts the ball over his head, deft swivel, leans towards the defender…he shoots, and…GOOAAAAALLL! That’s why he’s worth 200K /wk!! I don’t think he was playing against the Iranian side either…

  10. It’s quite clear that by exchanging a lot of words (most of which I understand) will soon get us a solution to what acceptable figures for X and Y will be (or to put it in words, “what would be an acceptable level of inequality in the control of wealth in the world”).

    Just give me a shout when you’ve got the answer.

  11. anna notaro Says:

    As obvious as that might sound, no one is establishing a (conceptual) hierarchical structure between words and figures, Brian, it’s only that the problem, given its complexity, cannot be understood and correct by using only one of such tools we have. The first phiosophers were also engineers/mathematicians/astronomers etc.etc, but you know that, of course…

    • Yep, I was aware of that. That’s why I suggested that we should define the criteria that we would use in order to determine a quantitative answer. My own preference is to use the quantitative results from research into the science and economics of happiness. Such research is often treated as unreliable but we don’t have anything better at the moment. We just have sociologists making various qualitative claims about what might be best for society and economists making quantitative predictions about economic growth. It is better to use the right tool, even if it is somewhat imprecise, than to use the wrong tool.

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