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Average top-flight player now earns £1m+ pre-bonus

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

The average top-flight football player now earns 34 times the average national wage compared to only two and a half times the average in the mid-80s, according to figures obtained by Sporting Intelligence from the Professional Footballers Association.

With a pre-bonus average income of £1,162,350 in 2009/10, players in the Premier League also earn three times as much as their counterparts did only 10 years ago. In the Championship wages have also trebled within the past decade from £71,500 to £211,068.

Go back even further to 1984-85 and Sporting Intelligence says the average (then) First Division player got by on a relatively modest £24,934. Top-flight wages increased steadily throughout the 80s but it was the creation of the Premier League in 1992 which sparked the largest growth in wages from around 1996-2002.

By 2008-09 the average player in the top division earned more than £1m for the first time although in percentage terms growth actually slowed. Players are still earning more year-on-year, but the rate at which the average wage is expanding has slowed since 2007-08. This is despite the arrival of the first £200,000 per week player in Carlos Tevez.

Away from the Premier League players in levels two, three, and four have also seen a sharp increase in their pre-bonus pay packets, although Football League wage expansion doesn’t quite match the Premier League explosion.

In 1984-85 the average player in the second tier (the Division Two) earned £15,507 – their modern day Championship equivalent earns £211,068. Players in the third tier can now count on a pay packet averaging £73,320 as opposed to £11,261 in the 80s.

Rather surprisingly, the average Fourth Division player in 1984-85 actually earned less than the average UK workers wage. A professional footballer in that league at that time could expect £8,314 pre-bonus while the average workers wage was £9,984.

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Funding partners

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