Okay. Another hypothetical situation, nearly two years later.
You work in Tesco. It’s a part-time job to help you make ends meet while you struggle to adapt to the harsh financial realities of third-level education. You’re paid €11.50 an hour for your services, and you do an average of 20 hours per week, coming out with €230 every seven days (gross, before deductions). You spend 56 per cent of your income on yourself, leaving you with €101.20 to play around with.
A friend – he’s German – offers you a gift. He tells you that this ‘gift’ will arrive to you, in the summer, free of charge. It will come attached with a weekly maintenance charge of “around 3.83 per cent” of your overall wages, or €8.81. He describes the gift as “something similar” to a lot of items you already have in your possession.
“This gift will not change your life in any major way,” says Hans.
Your friend’s name is Hans.
But Hans gives you an option. He says that, if you so wish, you can instead opt to receive the gift now — for a once-off payment. He does not wish to part with the gift just yet, as to him it is currently serving a particular purpose, but he will give it to you for the right price.
The ‘right price’ concerned is 3.29 per cent of your yearly wage. Or €393.48.
So, you are then faced with a dilemma. Do you tell Hans you will pay the €393.48 now, and immediately receive the gift you can probably live without – in the process taking up the €8.81 weekly charge – or do you wait until June?
Seems a relatively straight-forward financial decision to make, doesn’t it?
Yeah, well, not if you’re a football club.
Tottenham Hotspur had a yearly wage-to-turnover ratio of 56 per cent in 2011 (£91.1m versus £163.5m).
They recently announced that they have agreed terms with their German friend (Schalke 04, not Hans) for the free transfer of German footballer Lewis Holtby in the summer. Holtby will command a £67,000 a week pay cheque (or maintenance charge) in London once he signs, roughly 3.83 per cent of Tottenham’s overall wage bill — or, in the real world, your €8.81 a week.
But Tottenham want him now, and Schalke 04 (in their role as a ‘loyal friend’) said they will only part with Holtby this January if the London club are willing to stump up a once-off fee of £3,000,000, which equates to roughly 3.29 per cent of the wage bill at White Hart Lane — or, in the real world, your €393.48.
Negotiations are currently deadlocked, with Tottenham apparently only agreeing to go as high as a once-off payment of £2,000,000 — or, in the real world, a €262.32 lump sum.
Hans’s gift to you is an oil painting. You are aware that you already have eight oil paintings in your sitting room, and have no room for any more on the wall — especially if the incoming oil painting from Hans is not of any greater quality than the paintings you already have in your possession.
In the real world, you weigh up the offer from Hans and decide it will be financially sensible to wait until the summer for the painting to arrive free of charge — giving you ample time to decide which wall painting must be sacrificed in its place.
But this isn’t the real world. Hans, despite the best efforts of the person writing this piece, isn’t real.
And Schalke 04 are.
Tottenham Hotspur are, too. They’re earning €230 a week. They have €101.20 every Friday to play around with after bills (and that’s being generous). And they’re probably going to end up paying that €393.48 to get a new oil painting on their wall this month — along with the €8.81 continuous weekly maintenance charge — despite already having eight there in the shape of Dempsey, Huddlestone, Lennon, Parker, Bale, Dembele, Sigurdsson and Townsend, who probably each cost more than €8.81 a week to ‘maintain’.
Yep, Tottenham are more than likely going to pay all this money, unnecessarily, while you struggle to afford a decent brand of tinned beans for your dinner. They’ll even leave one of their extra oil paintings to gather dust under the stairs while you’re out trying to pawn off some gold jewellery to get your kids through school.
Football, eh? It’d be enough to drive anyone mad.
If he was real.