The Premier League football season kicks off today, and dependent on your level of interest in the game, that’s likely to be either a reason to celebrate or an excuse to pick up a new hobby on Saturdays.

Football, and footballers, come in for a lot of stick these days. There seems to be endless questions asked of their suitability as role models for young supporters, and repeated accusations that their lifestyles have distanced them from every day fans. These are not questions that can be answered with a simple truth. Footballers are paid huge sums of money, but there is an argument that the sport provides an obvious example of social mobility in action. There is also an argument that footballers’ pay is, at least to some degree, more closey linked to performance than pay in other industries.

What is clear however is the extent to which football demonstrates the huge disparities in incomes in the UK. The average annual wage of the five best-paid footballers in the Premiership is around £12m. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of roughly 982 minimum wage jobs, or about 447 nurses.

Paying large sums of money to highly sought after professionals with specific skills (and who are in short supply) is one thing. But the other side of the coin is the fact that, to date, Chelsea is the only Premier League team that is Living Wage accredited. In reality therefore, the differences in pay between football club staff is likely to be vast.

One of the obvious attractions to football is that it is a team game. Anyone who has enjoyed going to a match has almost certainly felt a sense of community, the feeling of shared purpose with fellow fans and your team’s players. But it’s difficult to see pay within football clubs as indicative of this, especially when it appears there is a bottomless pit of money for top ‘talent’, but a vanishingly small pot for some other employees.

That’s why Pay Compare has launched its Fair Footy campaign. They’re asking people to lobby their football club to disclose pay ratios, to provide transparency and shed some light on the exact nature of pay differentials within clubs. More details can be found on their website here.

Pay inequality is not a problem unique to football. The UK is a hugely divided and unequal country, with vast disparities in income and wealth. Perhaps we don’t just need a reduction in inequality. Perhaps we also need a more basic interest in teamwork.

John Hood

Media and Communications Manager