Stop raging about Neymar's transfer fee and salary – there is no such thing as a fair wage

If I ruled Britain, no one at the BBC would get more than £100,000, nor ministers of the Crown. And irritating people on Radio 1 with red hair and specs would get the national living wage, and be grateful for it

Sean O'Grady
Wednesday 02 August 2017 20:16
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Neymar is moving to PSG, with a transfer fee of £198m
Neymar is moving to PSG, with a transfer fee of £198m

International footballers. BBC stars. “Fat cat” businesspeople. Junior members of the Royal Family. Aristocrat farmers on vast subsidies from the EU CAP. Usually men. They are always overpaid. It’s not fair.

It might be quite obscenely unfair too, as in the example of Neymar, apparently “worth” a £198m fee to move from Barcelona to Paris St Germain (football teams, in case you’d not heard). There are member states of the UN with a smaller GDP than that.

His agent, who also happens to coincidentally be his father, will take approximately a ten per cent cut of that transfer fee, and Neymar himself will receive approximately £26m per year in salary. He’s not exactly going to be scraping the barrel.

So, the “unfairness” is all true. Sort of. You see, we have a choice, quite a genuine choice, despite the facetious way I put it, as to how to run our economy.

On the one hand we can have the pay of all the football stars, TV personalities, capitalists and their lackeys, actors, models, artists, eye surgeons, car workers, blokes on nights in chicken shops, Uber drivers, squaddies, the poor sods in the JD Sports warehouse, sweary chefs, Kwik Fit fitters, the man from Del Monte, gobshite media columnists, rent boys, the Archbishop of York, Ken Dodd, the Tetley tea men and anyone else you care to mention determined by Parliament.

Or by newspaper editors and their readers’ “fury”. Or some supreme dictator and his clique. It’s how they used to run Russia, you know, and still do in North Korea.

So, if I ruled Britain then certainly Wayne Rooney wouldn’t get £300,000 every single week for playing footie. I’d give the eye surgeons a rise immediately. Indeed anyone who worked in the NHS would get another 20 per cent straight away. I’d cut the pay of people in private schools, and hand it to their state counterparts. I’d cap all celeb fees for doing anything at £100 per turn. No one at the BBC would get more than £100,000, nor ministers of the Crown. And irritating people on Radio 1 with red hair and specs would get the national living wage, and be grateful for it. In fact make that anyone who presents or ever has presented Top Gear/The Grand Tour – except for James May and Sue Barker, because I like them.

See how daft it is?

Neymar's career in numbers

The truth is there is no such thing as a “fair wage”. The way to sort out what we all get paid, with the incidental benefit of creating an efficient market economy, is to allow the forces of supply and demand to determine it. Then, when it settles down, we can tax those who earn certain levels of income at a sensible rate that doesn’t destroy incentives, penalise hard work or arbitrarily favour one group over another.

So I wouldn’t be allowed to arbitrarily levy a super tax on Chris Evans, or exempt Steve Coogan because I value their work and talents differently. If people want to pay to watch other people play football, and that means the footballers get silly money, well then it’s no part of the state’s role to stop them.

It’s true that public enterprises such as the BBC and the NHS aren’t as responsive to market forces as they might be, but ironically that is because they have such political pressures piled on them, to be frank. ITV and Bupa don’t.

One last thought. I have never met anyone who believes they are fairly paid, nor who believes that anyone else is fairly paid. That’s because, as I say, there is no such thing as “fair pay”. Understand that, and you will never get cross about a footballer’s wage again. No charge, by the way, for that advice.

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