The Maximum Wage And Retain & Transfer: A Match Made In Hell, For Players

One of the more extraordinary facts to be thrown up by last night’s Premier League match between Blackpool and Manchester United was that one Manchester United player, Wayne Rooney, earns more every week than the entire Blackpool squad does between them. Such are the vagaries of modern football. It wasn’t, of course, ever thus. Until the early 1960s, footballers existed in a peculiar form of serfdom, unable to work where they wanted to and with a savage salary cap that didn’t even seem to take into account the harsh fact that players, often uneducated and having only ever known one way of life, would usually see their careers grind to a halt by the time they were forty years old. The story of football’s maximum wage is a story that spanned the first eighty years of professional football in England. Darwen FC had been the first club to pay players to pay for them, the Scots Fergie Suter and James Love in 1879, and as clubs became more and more aware of the commercial benefits of having a winning team, this practice became more and more commonplace until the widely ignored FA rule banning professionalism was lifted in 1885. The lifting of this rule opened the floodgates and within ten years clubs were already requesting that the the Football League introduced a maximum wage for players. Most players were...

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