Wednesday 12 August ~
Middlesbrough’s Andrew Taylor has passed me by as a player, I am ashamed to say. Apparently he’s 23 years old with 103 League appearances behind him and 13 Under-21 caps for England. On September 1, he launches a website called Platinum Players. All 4,000 of the country’s professional footballers are to be sent log in details for the site, which will be free at the point of delivery and will feature “trusted service providers of luxury lifestyle products”.
Taylor is planning to finance the site initially from his own resources, but will meet the bills over time from listing fees and advertising. Not too surprisingly it will feature car dealerships, jewellers, legal and financial advisers and exclusive nightclubs and restaurants. Taylor got the idea after an unsatisfactory experience having an audio system installed.
Of course, he is not the first player to undertake this kind of “lifestyle” venture. Jamie Redknapp, along with his wife Louise and Tim Sherwood, launched the bi-monthly magazine Icon back in 2005 and more recently Rio Ferdinand added his #5 online publication. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with professional footballers having a resource that can help them avoid getting ripped off by unscrupulous suppliers and trades people, but the launch does not suggest that Taylor is blessed with much self awareness.
A report in last Saturday's Guardian drew on a survey of PFA members in 2006 and noted that average salaries in the Premier League were £676,000 and £196,000 in the Championship. I guess luxury lifestyle products are appropriate for them. In Leagues One and Two the numbers are £68,000 and £50,000, still high enough to put them in the top ten per cent of wage earners according to the 2008 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), but hardly luxurious in leagues dominated by short-term contracts.
More pertinent is that this summer has seen record numbers of professional players without contracts, the number having risen from the usual 500 or so up to 800 this year, the PFA estimates. Even within Andrew Taylor’s own industry, interest in the availability of trusted service providers of luxury lifestyle products will be by no means universal. A website offering guidance on how to get a job after football or to improve basic skills might have had as many hits. The same ASHE survey provides another interesting context by showing that average annual salaries for full-time employment in the economy at large are in the region of £27,000 – depending which employment group is looked at. In this and recent summers players have negotiated weekly increases at or about that level for agreeing not to move.
None of this is surprising in one way, but it adds some perspective to comments made in the past by Alan Curbishley and Steve Bruce who apparently found it difficult to motivate their players once they had passed the 40 points for the season. Andrew Taylor is not to blame for any of this, of course. In fact, he is to be thanked for offering a reminder, as the euphoria of a new season is about to engulf us, just how privileged players at the top end are. And how it is not too unreasonable to expect them to put in some effort at least once or twice a season. Brian Simpson