This article appeared in the Guardian on Friday November 02 2007 on p1 of the Sport news & features section. It was last updated at 00:11 on November 02 2007.
The sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe sparked a furious row with two of England’s biggest clubs yesterday when he accused Chelsea of paying “obscene” wages to John Terry and of running an “unsustainable” business, and said that Manchester United were in danger of pricing out rank-and-file supporters.
Sutcliffe’s claims, made in his first public forum since becoming minister three months ago, prompted an angry response from both clubs, who accused him of getting his facts wrong.
Chelsea were particularly aggrieved at the minister’s comments and a senior executive from the club contacted Sutcliffe’s boss, the culture secretary James Purnell, to demand that the sports minister be forced to retract his remarks.
Sutcliffe told delegates at the FT Sports Industry Summit yesterday morning that Terry earns £150,000 a week, that Chelsea are “£250m in the red” and that United had increased ticket prices by 13%. Both clubs disputed his figures. Chelsea would not confirm Terry’s wage but he is understood to earn closer to £130,000. The club’s losses last year were £80m, while United’s average season-ticket rise this season was 10.87%.
A spokesman for the sports minister was later forced to clarify his position: “The minister accepts that his figures may not have been 100% accurate, but he stands by the wider point that he was making.”
In a wide-ranging address to delegates Sutcliffe said football was in danger of losing touch with ordinary fans, and cited some of the excesses of wages and ticket-price increases in the Premier League as evidence to support his case.
“The amount of money that players earn is obscene,” he said. “Good luck to John Terry but the ordinary man in the street can’t relate to that sort of money. Chelsea are £250m in the red and they may be able to cope with that but it’s not the real world. £250m in the red is not sustainable.
“This year Manchester United increased their season tickets by 13% and said fans have automatically to buy European and Carling Cup games as well, and that costs an extra £200. That’s taking the game away from the ordinary grass-roots supporter.
“Ordinary working people who want to go and see Manchester United face being priced out. There is a danger that there will be a move away from the game and we don’t want to be in a position where people are alienated.”
Chelsea were furious. Club sources said it was inappropriate for the minister to attack the England captain in the week that the government had pledged its support to a World Cup bid, and disputed his assessment of the financial position.
Chelsea made a loss of £80m for last year and £140m for the year before, but is committed to breaking even by 2010. Sources close to the minister said he was referring to the combined figure when he talked about the club being “in the red” but that still leaves him £30m out, and thanks to the largesse of Roman Abramovich Chelsea has no debt.
United’s chief executive David Gill was also dismissive of Sutcliffe’s argument, maintaining that the average season-ticket price rise last season was 10.87%. Appearing at the conference later in the day Gill said: “He’s obviously speaking without knowing all the facts. We take a lot of time about these issues and our prices are reasonable at between £25-£45.”
The dispute over figures overshadowed what was an otherwise reasoned analysis of the state of British sport. While his attack on the excesses of the modern game was clearly calculated to stir debate, the minister insisted that he was a “critical friend” of the game.
In response to a request from Football League chairman, Lord Mawhinney, Sutcliffe is to ask the insolvency services to examine issues surrounding offshore trusts and their involvement in football. Leeds United are among clubs whose ultimate ownership structure is opaque, and the minister will ask the service to examine whether it is possible for trusts to be subject to the fit-and-proper-persons test applied to domestic owners.
Football’s top earners
John Terry £135,000 ( 266,022.41 USD )
Andriy Shevchenko £121,000 ( 238,434.90 USD )
Michael Ballack £121,000 ( 238,434.90 USD )
Steven Gerrard £120,000 ( 236,339.21 USD )
Cristiano Ronaldo £119,000 ( 234,369.72 USD )
Wayne Rooney £110,000 ( 216,636.06 USD )
Michael Owen £110,000 ( 216,636.06 USD )
Frank Lampard £100,000 ( 196,941.87 USD )
Rio Ferdinand £100,000 ( 196,941.87 USD )
Fernando Torres £90,000 ( 177,246.34 USD )
Didier Drogba £90,000 ( 177,246.34 USD )
(Approximate weekly salaries)
Note: To convert to Malaysia Ringgit current currency is 1 GBP = 6.21792 MYR just x 6.2
P/s: That is crazy wages for footballer …. that was not include other source income !!!