The extremes of modern era football, compared to what went before, are no better illustrated than by player wages in England.
Until 1961 there was a maximum wage in place across all professional football in England, only for a campaign led by Jimmy Hill to eventually force the Football League and its members to back down.
Before the abolition in 1961, the maximum wage had risen to £20 per week (though there were always stories of various clubs paying some players extra money by underhand means), then when the restrictions were lifted – Johnny Haynes became the first player in England to earn £100 a week!
Going forward 23 years, that £100 a week top wage had become an average of £500 a week for all players in the First Division (later to be Premier League), though as you can see below, in the fourth division in 1984/85 an average player was receiving only £160 a week. Obviously Johnny Haynes was a superstar of his day but it did illustrate how little things had changed in those 23 years.
If you went forward 23 years from that 1984/85 season to 2007/08, you would then find that the average wage in the top division had gone from £500 (1984/85) to £19,000 a week (2007/08).
However, in only a further seven years, it had increased in the Premier League to an average of £34,000 per week. Remember of course that these figures are only the average, so hundreds of players would be receiving more than this – some substantially more.
In the case of Newcastle United, the club’s wage bill is consistently one of the highest outside the top half dozen usual suspects, so fair to say that your average Newcastle first team player would have been earning at least this league-wide average, though almost certainly more than that.
Interesting though to compare what has happened in the Premier League with the other three divisions below.
The figures below are the average per week in each of the four top tiers of English football:
1984/85 (1st) £479 (2nd) £298 (3rd) £216 (4th) £160
2007/08 (1st) £18,468 (2nd) £2,621 (3rd) £982 (4th) £663
2014/15 (1st) £32,767 (2nd) £6,235 (3rd) £1,336 (4th) £776
Fair to say that while the divide between the average in the top two divisions is massive, arguably it is far far greater between the Championship and the other two lower ones.
With an average of over £6,000 in the Championship, that is the kind of figure that could and should set people up for life.
Whilst in the bottom two divisions, the money they are making over 15 years or so is showing little sign of financing them for the rest of their lives.
Clearly there is a strong relationship here between the Premier League and the Championship, with obviously clubs moving up and down, parachute payments, plus of course ambitious clubs really stretching themselves to reach the hallowed land of the Premier League.
Here is the full table published by Sporting Intelligence:
With even bigger riches kicking into the Premier League from next season, that is bound to be reflected in the wages rising at a quite ridiculous rate.
In another seven years time I think it will be a massive negative for English football when it comes to the extreme amounts of money so many average players will be receiving by that point.
Hopefully we will see more of a trickle down to those playing week in week out in those lower divisions