TELEPHONE number salaries of elite footballers continue to spiral out of control and attract widespread condemnation.
But the market created by the astounding money the biggest clubs pay in transfers, wages and associated benefits to the top players is also creating a financial killing further down the leagues.
Championship clubs commonly pay wages that would leave even the chief earners at the BBC green with envy.
Goodness knows what the outcry among ordinary folk would be should the wages of decidedly ordinary players officially be made public.
Even footballers at Championship’s paupers Burton Albion, a club brilliantly run financially compared with their rivals, earn more than Prime Minister Theresa May.
An example of the sheer madness of football down the scale is the story of Dexter Blackstock, who played for several years for my favourite club Nottingham Forest.
Having suffered a career threatening knee injury in a game at Cardiff in November 2010 that meant he was never the same athlete again, Blackstock was ludicrously awarded a new four-year contract by Forest’s head of comedy and former owner Fawaz-Al-Hasawi in January 2013.
I’m not privy to the terms of that deal but it is reasonable to estimate his wages were around £20,000 a week.
In the following three seasons, Blackstock limped through just 49 matches scoring a meagre nine goals – let’s remember he ‘earned’ his living as a striker.
Forest finally called time on his career with them around a year ago.
The fact he wasn’t doing his job very well and was in little position to fulfil his contract didn’t mean he was sacked.
Instead his contract was ‘paid up’, meaning he could easily have walked away with a seven-figure sum.
Next up on the list of clowns willing to pay Blackstock for doing very little was fellow Championship side Rotherham United.
Having miraculously escaped from relegation the previous season and being a small fish in a big pond, the South Yorkshire club supposedly doesn’t have money to burn.
They therefore took a huge gamble by awarding Blackstock a three-year deal and making him their highest paid player.
What did they get for their money?
He made just 17 appearances, mostly as a late substitute, and scored just a single goal (in a match they lost anyway).
As Rotherham stayed rooted at the bottom of the league throughout the season, chairman Tony Stewart reported that he staged talks with Blackstock to see if he could get a better return from him.
The result of that was the mutual termination of his contract a few weeks ago with Blackstock again negotiating a fortune.
I was told by a reliable source today: “Dexter would never walk for less than £500,000.”
Meanwhile when he should have been concentrating on his poor personal form, Blackstock was working for an organisation leeching yet more money out of football.
He was unable to officially become an agent as that is illegal for someone to do so whilst still playing.
Yet he was still involved behind the scenes as one of Forest’s best players Henri Lansbury was transferred to Aston Villa on a £40k a week deal – not bad for someone known to perform well every six weeks or so.
Blackstock has now retired as a player at the grand old age of 31 and is free to become an agent.
These guys make their money by moving their clients – footballers – on to other clubs as frequently as possible.
They get paid part of the transfer fee and by the clubs involved.
It’s probably a quicker way of making money than anything Ronnie Biggs managed – and only marginally more moral.
You see, ‘football’ itself plays very little part in such transfers.
Another Forest player, who again suffered from a career threatening knee injury, was just been transferred to Middlesbrough for an incredible £15m.
His ‘career’ as a footballer would have been the last thing in the mind of Britt Assombalonga and his representatives when the deal was done.
He could have moved into the Premier League by joining Burnley, who also put in an offer. But Boro’s wages were higher, guaranteeing he will become a multi-millionaire even if he never kicks a football again.
All this would perhaps matter very little if ordinary people in this country – including many who help pay the wages of Blackstock, Assombalonga and co by buying tickets – were also doing particularly well.
But when even good folk in employment are having to resort to food banks to get from day to day, I respectfully suggest the way money is wasted in our so-called beautiful game is a disgrace. That’s putting it very mildly.