Money and Football: Raheem Sterling's Liverpool Contract
Let me ask you a question: If your boss at work offered you a rise to $150,000-a-week would you turn it down because you’re not worthy of such a hug sum when so many people are starving in the world?
And here’s another one: If the guy or gal sitting next to you got more money than you were being offered – let’s say $225,000-a-week – and you felt you were better than them and of more value to your employers, would you ask for parity?
I suspect that for most of us, the answer would be “yes” to both questions.
There are a few unique individuals around with enough money or principles to turn down such a huge windfall, but the temptation would surely be to take the cash and up the contributions to the collections plate in church on Sundays.
It’s so easy for us to chastise Raheem Sterling and the spoilt young men of football for sniffing their noses at salaries so beyond the comprehension of most working folk.
We all know it makes absolutely no sense that Liverpool can offer Sterling $150,000-a-week for playing a game he loves when the average hourly pay for a registered nurse in the United States is about $26 – or $1,040 for a 40-hour week – for saving people’s lives, caring for the sick and the infirm and generally being incredibly selfless, invaluable members of society.
But we really can’t compare the two in any meaningful kind of way. Ask most nurses if they’d take a pay rise from $1,040-a-week to $150,000-a-week and you can bet your bottom dollar they’d say yes.
I don’t know much about Raheem Sterling other than he’s a very fine footballer and should play for West Ham United. But I do truly believe that he didn’t start playing football as a kid because he dreamed of being richer than Croesus.
He may have dreamed of scoring a goal in a cup final at Wembley or one day playing for the Hammers but I very much doubt that the 13-year-old Raheem was thinking about one day buying a posh mansion in The Wirral or conniving with scheming agents to get a better deal by going rogue and doing an unsanctioned interview with the BBC.
Students take business degrees to make money; they become lawyers, accountants, even doctors. They don’t generally play football.
Yes, it’s an obscene amount of money, but Daniel Sturridge is only 5 years older and he’s on $225,000-a-week.
We can’t even begin to consider these salaries in comparison to the real world where so many people struggle to eat or get access to simple things like drinking water let alone worry about paying mortgages and college tuition.
But taken in isolation, Sterling has a case to make. He is one of so very few that make it in this game. For every Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge there are tens of thousands every year whose hopes and dreams of paying international soccer fall by the wayside.
An injury as a teenager can put you on the scrap heap, more often than not with little qualifications to show for a school career devoted to playing football. A dip in form can see your stock dwindle so low you’re sold off without so much as a thank you and goodbye.
For most kids, playing professional football for a team like Liverpool is way, way beyond their wildest dreams. In a different world, most of them would be just as keen to play for $1,040, the nurse’s average weekly salary, as the millions they are being offered.
While we can mourn the extent to which mankind has veered off course to allow such an inequality, don’t shed a tear for Liverpool Football Club or any of the other big spending teams. It’s all about self-interest for them. They need Sterling right now and will pay the going rate when the time comes. If and when he becomes surplus to requirements they will dump him along with yesterday’s newspapers.
None of this is new to U.S. sports fans. They’ve seen it all before in American Football, basketball and baseball. It’s the American way to pay whatever price the demand demands and Liverpool’s American owners will understand this better than most.
Our best hope is that once these lucky young princes of football have had their fill of fast cars, swanky digs and sunshine vacations, they will come to understand the responsibility that comes with their good fortune. You can pay forward an awful lot of helpful things with that kind of money.
Let’s hope that when the final summation comes, Raheem and his overpaid superstar pals will look back and feel they have done a fraction of the good that nurses do in one $1,040 week. But for now, all we can do is enjoy watching them play the game they love.