That’s how much Manchester United’s 31-year-old striker Wayne Rooney earned last season. He scored a grand total of five goals.
Is it fair that top sports stars are paid outrageous amounts of money most people only dream of making in a year?
Before blaming the teams and the sporting industry, the fans must acknowledge their own part in this. We all pay top-dollar to watch logic-defying, awe-inspiring displays of talent and skill, week in and week out. After all, sporting success is often considered as the pinnacle of human achievement, and those players who win the hearts of the fans are serenaded as heroes and put on a pedestal. Set foot in any corner of the world and you are sure to see the names of superstars like LeBron James, Sachin Tendulkar or Lionel Messi on the back of jerseys worn by fans who idolise them. These guys have worked on their game day in and day out for decades. They have poured their blood, sweat and tears to reach the summit of their game. They have overcome physical, societal and psychological barriers and have come from all corners of the world to play the game they love. It isn’t outrageous to suggest that they deserve to be rewarded handsomely for their efforts.
But the pertinent question is this: How much is too much?
In sport, money talks. Ad revenue, sponsorship deals, and merchandise all lead to franchises raking in millions every year. All this leads to the burden of expectation on the teams, driving them to seek desperate measures in search of success. Immediate success. Hence, we have clubs splurging millions of dollars on players every year to chase glory on all fronts. But here arises a fundamental problem. Teams are stunting the development of young talent by loading their teams with superstars, thereby forsaking long term benefits for immediate results. The fans demand trophies, the owners want more trophies to attract more big money sponsorship deals for the club, and so the vicious cycle continues.
Another deep-rooted issue is players being paid too much, too soon. While most 18-year olds are worried sick about education loans and paying for college, AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, 18, is earning $6 million a year, with reports of a world record $120 million bid being made for his talents. That’s more than the GDP of countries like Uruguay and Croatia! With such ludicrous amounts of money being thrown around, questions about the motivation and dedication of these young athletes inevitably arise.
Thus, it might be wise to introduce a salary cap, helping keep the players grounded and giving them a better chance of success. This helps in bringing a transparency to the pay structure, while maintaining a uniformity throughout the sport, giving all players an equal opportunity. Not only would this prompt better managing of finances by teams, but it would also prevent the tragedy of promising careers fading away due to the allure of money.
The fascination with sport that exists in today’s society is unlikely to die down any time soon. As technology advances, humans are stretching the boundaries of physical and mental achievement every single day. The integration of sport and technology promises to make the phenomenon of sport an even more attractive proposition for millions of fans all over the world. So while it may not be fair that a footballer may earn ten times what you earn, hopefully, a better future lies in wait. For now, let’s just enjoy the magnificent spectacle that is modern sport.