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Anorak | The Unkindest Cut

The Unkindest Cut

by | 19th, July 2002

‘RONALDO, the world’s most in-demand player after Rio Ferdinand and Clinton Morrison, has, in the words of one national newspaper, ‘taken a stand against the financial crisis engulfing European football by urging his club, Inter Milan, to cut his wages’.

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Along with team-mates Christian Vieri and Alvaro Recoba, he has offered to take a 10 per cent reduction in earnings. ‘We spoke to each other and decided to do something to make our president understand that we care about Inter, and we want to make Inter bigger and stronger,’ said Vieri, whose idea it was.

‘Everybody likes to earn a lot,’ said Recoba, ‘but if a club can’t pay players, then we need to be honest and accept a pay cut, for the good of everybody.’ Everybody including the club president, it seems. ‘The president has supported us in every moment,’ remarked Vieri. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

But although Vieri’s motives were probably perfectly genuine, and it would be wrong to accuse him of cynicism, it would nevertheless be a mistake to interpret his actions as being entirely altruistic. Aside from the fact that he and his cohorts earn more than £100,000 a week, not including sponsorship, there are other aspects to consider.

In a sense, their position is not that different from their president’s. Unlike journeymen pros, they are superstars whose fortunes are bound up in the same business interests as their employers. Although they may superficially appear to be on different sides vis-a-vis wage negotiations, they are both on the same side when it comes to the commercial funding of their sport.

The players’ gesture is more akin to a fat cat waiving his annual bonus at a time when employees and shareholders are feeling the pinch. As Vieri says, it is not the specific amount of money that counts: ‘What is important is to take the initiative.’ This is good PR, for both the players and the industry.

Italian football is in financial crisis, and the broadcasting companies that have invested so heavily in it are suffering from a big shortfall in pay-per-view revenue. Far from entering a bidding war for TV rights, they are talking about mergers.

Other players have seen which way the wind is blowing, and followed the same path as Vieri and co. Already the players’ union has agreed to an automatic pay cut for players at relegated clubs.

Downsizing is the buzz-word in football, and the cutting back of the bloated Champions League will lead to a cutting back of bloated squads across the European game. But don’t expect too many stars to suffer.

When everyone is asked to take a step down, the brunt will, as ever, be borne by those on the bottom rung. ‘



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