I can remember a Peanuts cartoon in which the children were proclaiming extravagant wagers: “I bet 3 million dollars!” “I bet 10 million dollars!” and so on. But when one child said, “I bet 10 cents,” another one replied, “Now you are talking real money!”
The amounts that football supporters pay out to buy a ticket to a game or a pie and pint at half time are in the realm of real money; Manchester United’s reported bid of £40m bid for Juan Mata1 is not. The multi-million amounts that are paid for and to top players are unreal, beyond comprehension for ordinary fans.
I don’t know anything about economics beyond the basic advice given by Mr Micawber2, that if your expenditure exceeds your income you are in trouble. So what follows should not be mistaken for expert opinion.
The rise in transfer fees and amounts paid to players and agents cannot go on forever. The huge amounts of money in the Premier League remind me of the tulip madness3 that gripped Dutch investors in the 17th century. Just before the market collapsed in 1637, the price of one of the most valued bulbs was about the same as that of a luxurious house in Amsterdam. The price of footballers depends not on their value to society but on what TV companies are willing to pay. One day, when the TV companies decide to spend their money on something else, the bubble will burst and football’s upper tiers will implode.
In the meantime, ordinary football supporters have to deal with real money and for many the price of tickets makes it hard to go to games. For Birmingham City fans it’s not only the ticket prices that put people off; it’s the performance on the pitch and all that’s going on at the club. You can’t expect to get big crowds when the team can’t win at home and it costs less to go to a pub and watch a better standard of football.
- Manchester United make club record £40m bid for Chelsea’s Juan Mata
- “My other piece of advice, Copperfield, said Mr. Micawber, you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and, in short, you are for ever floored. As I am!” David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
- Was tulipmania irrational?