The History of Professional Football Players Wage
In 1901, we had a wage limit of £4-a-week in England. It took over 20 years for that maximum amount to double to £8-a-week in 1922, which was subsequently raised to £12-a-week in 1947. It was an entirely different game those days.
In 1961, the first paradigm shift in the way players were paid happened as the wage limit was abolished. When Fulham’s Johnny Haynes became the first £100-a-week player in football that year, people were shocked at the ridiculous amount of money in the game. These days, you need to multiply that a thousand times to raise a few eyebrows.
Wages have been steadily increasing in football since the days of Johnny Haynes, like is most other professions. The legends of Manchester United’s 1968 team were apparently on about £250-a-week of wages, making a little more from endorsements. Then in 1979, Peter Shilton became the best paid player in Britain with a £1200-a-week salary at Forest.
The 2nd paradigm shift which radically changed the amount players were paid was down to the start of the golden age of Serie A. Brasilian Falcao became the first player to cross 5 digits a week with a rumoured £10,000-a-week salary in the 80s. Roberto Baggio was rumoured to be on a $2.5m a year ($50,000-a-week) salary at Juventus in the early 90s, at the peak of Serie A’s golden age.
Then we had the 3rd paradigm shift, which dramatically changed everything. A landmark European court case in 1995, the Bosman ruling gave freedom of movement to out-of-contract players. With clubs now able to get star players for free, part of the transfer fee “savings” were transfered to player wages. Agents of other players who did not benefit from Bosman-style wages negotiated parity for their clients. Pre-Bosman, Chris Sutton was the highest paid player in England on a salary of £10,000-a-week in 1994 at Blackburn, and by 1996, Ravanelli was rumoured to be on a salary of £40,000-a-week at Boro!