Premier League,World Cup & Minimum Wage!
Updated: Feb 23
Name: Lt. Bartholomew Hodgkinson
Subject: Professional Football.
Message: Dear Peter, As the world cup has recently ended in Qatar, I started reading into
the history of this fantastic sport. Do you know anything about the origins of the Premier
League, and was the common footballer always so young and well paid?
Association Football, as an organised sport, has been in competitive existence since the late
19 th century. Originating out from public schools, and sometimes in the form as what we
would recognise as rugby, the English Football League began in April 1888 with 12 teams, 6
of which were Lancastrians; Burnley, Blackburn, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Accrington
Stanley and Preston North End. This format expanded and developed during the next
century and the game grew so much that its popularity peaked, in the form of crowd
attendances, in the post-war, early twentieth century. Burnley FC’s record attendance being
a FA Cup in 1924 when 54,755 packed into Turf Moor to watch the clarets play Huddersfield
Town at Turf Moor.
In 1992, the league changed dramatically with the introduction of private financial
management, coordinated with increased television access and a desire of the leading clubs
to act independently of the Football League, hence in May 1992 so began the Premier
As to your query about players’ ages and pay, we can quickly resolve these questions.
Football has always been open to the introduction of young players and just as the modern-
day world has fledgling young heroes such as Jude Bellingham, who played for England at
just 17 years old, so recently we witnessed a new Premier League record in the appearance
of Ethan Nwaneri for Arsenal, at just 15years and 181 days old. However, this reliance on
youth is not by any means a new concept. Wayne Rooney also played for England when he
was just 17. Bolton legend, Ray Parrs played for the Wanderers in 1951 aged 15 years and
268 day and the infamous Tommy Lawton signed for Burnley in 1935, aged just 16 and 163
As to salaries of professional footballers the rise has been meteoric, not to say somewhat
distasteful for many. The table attached is from Sporting Intelligence in January 2011 and
represents vividly the stark contrast between wages today and in the past. There are some
that still do argue that the abolishment of the maximum players’ wage in 1963 was the end
of real competitive football.
As an anecdotal story regarding the issue of wages here is a snippet from Sporting
Intelligence about a certain wage negotiation in the early 1970’s: ‘When Kevin Keegan joined
Liverpool from Scunthorpe in May 1971, Bill Shankly’s first wage offer was £45 per week. In
his 1977 autobiography, Keegan recalled: ‘I wanted to sign there and then but remembered
that my father had told me not to sell myself cheap.’ Keegan told Shankly he expected more
than £45. Shankly replied: ‘That’s upsetting. Don’t forget, young man, we’re paying £33,000
for you.’ Keegan’s basic wage at Scunthorpe, in the old Fourth Division, had been £30 a
week, with £8 win bonus and £4 draw bonus. Keegan and Shankly eventually settled on a
starting wage of £50 a week at Liverpool. Regular first-team football, appearance money and
win bonuses added £80 a week to that basic figure, for £130 a week for one of England’s
best players at one of its biggest clubs’.
Ah well. I think we can safely say that football might not be the ‘beautiful game’ that it once
was but it still attracts great players and crowds and like so many events and pastimes of
developing history, it will no doubt continue to change and ripen well into the future.
Put the kettle on Mum!