Does a multimillionaire have the same employment rights as a regular employee? As football's winter transfer window draws to a close at the end of the month, a clutch of highly paid players have gone on strike, hoping to force their teams to let them move to other clubs.
Is it a sick travesty of the modern age seeing these pampered professionals claim the rights that everyday people have fought for decades to gain and retain, or should they be entitled to the same employment practices as the rest of us?
But wait, are footballers actually going on strike?
Picture this: you’ve had a really good few months at your job, so good that people at other companies have taken notice. In fact, one firm has gone so far to offer you a job at a way better salary than you are on. They are so keen on you that they want you straight away: like, yesterday. Problem is, you’ve got a contract, and your work expects you to work out your notice period. What are you to do?
If you took the route that Premier League stars such as Dmitri Payet of West Ham, Diego Costa of Chelsea and Jose Fonte of Southampton, or Chris Martin at Fulham in the Championship, reportedly chose, then you tell your employer that you are so unhappy about your current situation that you cannot work for them any more until you receive the move of your dreams (and become even richer).
Can they really do that?
It’s fair to say that your boss is unlikely to look kindly on your request. In fact, you’d be in a spot of legal bother. Were you a union member, they would probably advise you to stick to the word of your contract. (The difference is, this wouldn’t be going on in the full view of the tabloid press, and your plight wouldn’t be the subject of pub debates up and down the land.)
And hard-pressed fans of football clubs are likely to have little sympathy with stars whose wages they pay through extortionate season ticket prices, especially when the footballers sometimes are abandoning the hometown clubs that originally nurtured their talent.
*** FYI, the video below quite obviously contains strong language, football fans eh
It’s not just a question of the money. Dan, a Fulham fan, wrote on his blog that he is more pissed off about the backhanded way Martin’s gone about it: “These sorry sagas illustrate the extent of player-power in the modern game. Martin clearly thinks that by downing tools he can succeed in ridding himself of what he now feels is a burdensome contract, breaching the terms of a deal agreed back in August. Just because he doesn’t feel like staying in London – for whatever reason – is no justification for breaching his contract.”
Is all that anger really necessary?
But footballers are just easy targets for public criticism, argues Marina Hyde in The Guardian. “Aside from anything else, top-flight football is one of the few engines of social mobility that still works in this country. What is it that [people] so detest about top-flight football, with its remorseless habit of creating working‑class millionaires? And so many black working-class millionaires, at that.”
And let’s be honest with ourselves. Would we really act any differently? “If someone offered you or I the chance to triple our salaries by carrying on doing what you do on a daily basis then we would jump at the chance without question,” says one Chelsea fan in an online forum. “To have the chance to earn that much for a sustained period of time would set us up financially to a point where you could bank the additional money for whatever future plans you have far quicker than any other option you have right now.”
The world that Premier League footballers inhabit is as alien to us as the surface of Mars or Jupiter would be; but at heart these young men were once just like us. Maybe it's time we remembered we're all human.