Some time ago I wrote a blog about why I consider premiership footballers are worth the money they receive. Whilst I appreciate it may not be a view that is palatable to everyone, most football fans don’t really have a problem with the amount their team get paid (provided they are winning!).
It was therefore very interesting to hear a fund manager on Radio 4 yesterday (11th January 2011) bizarrely comparing bankers and their bonuses to professional footballers. The implication was that bankers, particularly those at the top of their profession, are just as important as the equivalent football player. The Times leader article of the same date, actually takes the same argument, but aggressively rebuts it. The leader argues that the amount top professional footballers get paid is justified by virtue of the uniqueness of their special talent and suggests that bankers are undeserving by comparison.
The Times leader goes further and, as with much of the media, questions the whole issue of the appropriateness of bankers receiving bonuses whilst so many millions of people around the country are facing difficult times.
The government, having shouted from the rooftops as to how it was going to “bash the banks” (which culminated with David Cameron appearing on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday reinforcing this view), have performed a staggering, but largely predictable U-turn and effectively given in on the whole issue.
Whatever the reason, bankers are going to get their bonuses. Even the RBS, where we, the British public own almost 90% of the shares, staff are going to receive eye-watering sums, albeit by a mixture of cash and shares.
Explaining the morality and the equity of this whole issue to the man in the street is difficult. He understands why premiership footballers earn so much money, and he also understands how short their career is and how quickly they can fall out of favour. What he can’t understand is how the very same banks, who apparently got us into this financial mess, should be paying their employees so much money, whilst the rest of us are still victims of the mess they created.
The cynics amongst us, and I have to admit to being one, never expected anything other than the situation we have reached. This government was very unlikely to stand up to the banks and it is not clear what, in reality, they could have done, although some restraint could have been imposed.
In truth, the heading of this post suggests a close thing. In reality, the bankers have bashed us all by a considerably greater margin.