By Owais Iqbal
When a football club buys a player at a value more than the GDP of six countries, you know something has gone wrong. There is so much the world could do with £200m, let alone the extra £200m PSG are splashing on Neymar’s wages. We must all take a long, hard look at how the might of the football elite has devalued the sport we love, and whilst we’re at it let’s do some #NeymarMaths – the hashtag made popular by the BBC Sport team.
It has long been argued that football has surrendered itself to rich businessmen only interested in outspending each other. With the takeover of many clubs- including Manchester City, Chelsea, and PSG- by wealthy businessmen ready to commit a large sum of money into buying players, fans have felt hard-hit. Ticket prices have not been lowered or freezed, despite the huge increase in the prize money received from broadcasting deals. Financial Fair Play, introduced in 2011, also seems to be failing as clubs across Europe become more confident in their economic might. £50m is now considered standard if looking for a player with Premier League top six experience, even though Fernando Torres’ £50m fee was a Premier League transfer record in 2011.
For the purpose of this article, let us set the price of One Neymar at £400m, assuming we include the cost of paying his wages for the term of his contract. Recent statistics show that the average cost of a house in Manchester is £153,600. Using this figure, it would take only £29m to give all of Greater Manchester’s homeless a home. That’s 7.25% of One Neymar- an absolute bargain as it could potentially change the lives of 189 people. It costs UNICEF just £55 to train a nurse in a developing country the skills needed to care for children and their mothers. This means that training one million nurses, in a struggling country with poor healthcare, would only cost 13.75% of One Neymar. We’ve only spent 21% (£84m) so far.
One could give many more examples of how wisely this money could have been spent, but the list is endless and would take much longer than the length of this article to pinpoint, discuss, and calculate. Just because we cannot solve all our problems, however, does not mean that we should sit down and be content that we are living privileged lifestyles in a country where healthcare is available for all. We must strive to help other countries achieve what Aneurin Bevan began in 1948. One can only imagine a world where everybody can visit a doctor without worrying about not being able to pay for the day’s food.
And the money is there, if not readily available. Juan Mata’s recent announcement that he will donate one percent of his salary to a charitable cause, after his enlightening visit to the slums of Mumbai, is a welcome reminder that not everyone in football is as bad as we perceive. Yes, one percent is a meagre number in the grand scheme of things. But Mata argues that if more players, managers, and executives endorse his campaign (inspired by the organisation streetfootballworld, of which he is a global ambassador), this amount would be significant enough to make a big difference in the developing world. If this initiative proves to be anywhere near the success that Mata wishes it to be, it shows that together we can improve the lives of the many.
Juan Mata shares a philosophy similar to that of Bill Gates, billionaire founder of Microsoft and well-known philanthropist. The key difference between the two famous examples is that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, valued in July 2017 at $89.9 billion. Therefore, he is in a much better position, in both influence and power (which, it can be argued, are closely related- though that is an entirely different discussion), to spread the message of the cause to provide shelter and healthcare to all. Bill Gates is also a founder and signatory of The Giving Pledge, a vow made by billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes, and co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to tackle poverty and enhance global healthcare.
So, there are people who are working to tackle the growing homelessness and healthcare crises. Under Mata’s initiative, the footballing world has been given a lifeline to finally show that it does care about ordinary people, and that football is not out of touch with society. Whether or not Mata’s fellow footballers choose to take part in this new campaign is a totally different matter. At least we know there are people trying who can make a difference.
Figures, including money conversions, correct at time of writing.