Bottom divisions have never been relatively worse off
3 February ~ With League Two’s Cambridge United travelling to Old Trafford tonight for their FA Cup fourth round replay, the disparity in wealth between Premier League clubs and those below will be stark. Journalist Simon Akam, a contributing editor for Newsweek, recently studied what happened to the bottom of English professional football as money poured into the top. He discovered that, while lower-league players are richer than they have ever been, in relative terms they have never been poorer.
In 1959 the average wage bill for a top-flight English team was £44,000, while for a team in the fourth division it was £21,000. Come 2012-13 the average wage bill for a top-flight side was £126.25 million. In the fourth tier it was £2.46 million. A factor of two difference had become a factor of 50. Although wage discrepancy between the top and bottom of the game has hugely widened, wages at the bottom have also risen faster than inflation for year after year. In 1994-95 a fourth-tier average wage bill was £800,000. By 2012-13, as above, it was £2.46m. Adjusting for inflation, £800,000 is only £1.42 million in today's money.
Akam also explored the level that lower-league players receive, and how far the culture of top-flight players trickled down to their fourth-tier counterparts. The full version of the story is available as an eBook and can be purchased here for £1.99.