By Brian P. Dunleavy
Money can’t buy love—or happiness—but it sure gets you some good footballers.
And, as with anything you purchase, you get what you pay for.
That’s at least one of the lessons of the 2017 Global Sports Salaries Survey (GSSS) by Sporting Intelligence, the independent news and research site. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to followers of the Scottish game that Celtic’s total wages dwarf those of their competitors in the Scottish Premiership. Or that the Hoops’ collective pay is in turn dwarfed by that of their competitors in the Champions’ League.
Such is the way of the world. As philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Money often costs too much.”
According to this year’s GSSS, Celtic players earn an average salary of £735,040 ($955,552). Their closest rivals in the Prem, Aberdeen, pay their playing personnel, on average, £136,382 ($177,296).
Rangers, meanwhile, still suffering from the financial problems of their recent past, pays its players less than half of what their rivals in Parkhead do—£329,600 ($428,480).
Players at Motherwell, Celtic’s opponents in Sunday’s League Cup final—a 2-0 win for the Bhoys—and for Wednesday’s mid-week league clash at Fir Park (a 1-1 in which an own goal almost ended the Hoops’ 66-match unbeaten domestic run) earn an average salary of £42,662 ($55,461). Celtic will also face ’Well this Saturday, at Celtic Park.
The Steelmen’s player budget ranks 11th in the 12-team Premiership, only slightly ahead of bottom-feeders (or payers?) Hamilton Accies (£41,488). Manager Steve Robinson is cited in the GSSS as having told the press that he has first teamers earning as little as £13,000 annually. Clearly, not enough to buy their way out of penalties—as we were just telling Scott Sinclair (in the League Cup final) and Callum McGregor (in Wednesday’s match) the other day.
Celtic’s total wage bill, per GSSS: £40 million.
“It should… be uncontroversial… to accept that the small community who comprise the Scottish Premiership—a 12-team division—range from bona fide giants (by history, crowds, honours, you name it) to clubs half the size of some of those in England’s fifth division,” the GSSS report reads.
“Celtic are paying… almost as much by themselves as their 11 division rivals combined. So it isn’t a shock that Celtic began the season with expectations they would win a seventh league title in a row. It is difficult to see how this will change any time soon, not least with Celtic increasingly locked in to the virtuous cycle that is regular Champions League football—and the extra money it brings, and the extra advantage that provides.”
Unfortunately, the “good news” for Celtic—and Scotland—ends there. Of the 18 leagues surveyed in the GSSS, Scotland’s top flight has the third highest gulf in total salaries between the top and bottom clubs, and Premiership average annual salaries only rank ahead of those in the Canadian (gridiron) Football League and the WNBA here in the US.
And, the GSSS also places the thrashings Celtic has suffered at the hands of PSG and Bayern Munich in the Champions’ League play into context. PSG’s total wages are 8.8 times higher than those of the Parkhead club, while Bayern’s are 5.2 times higher. Belgium’s first division—in which Celtic’s other group stage opponents Anderlecht ply their trade—was not included in the GSSS analysis. We doubt the pay scale in Scotland even rates with that of Division A.
See? That’s the thing about money—somebody always has more than you do.