This Week with Brian
Including playing Germany, salaries and attendances, Cristiano watching the ladies, a thing of rare beauty, the best month, selling petrol, a tortoise on the line, bad memories, the Balkan derby, four unique dates and a small world.
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• The big story this week is the England’s women defeating Germany 2-1 to with the 2022 Euros (technically the 2021 Euros, delayed due to covid). Yes, I’ll read that again: England defeated Germany 2-1. This in fact isn’t quite as rare as it seems as the two countries have played each other three times in major finals and England have won two of them. The problem comes when the teams meet earlier in the competitions when the Germans almost always win.
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England have only ever won two major football competitions, last week and back in ’66. Both were at Wembley, both against Germany and both with officials from the former USSR. Tofiq Bahramov, from Azerbaijan, was the man who decided that Geoff Hurst’s second goal in 1966 had crossed the line (it possibly didn’t). There was less controversy at Wembley last week, aside from a possible handball that had the Germans howling both at the time and after the match. England were, however, the better team in both games: in any case Wikipedia says they won both finals so that can be regarded as definitive.
Aside from the sporting aspects, the game highlighted some interesting things about where this country is in terms of gender equality and where it is trying to get to.
The fact that the women have won a major title is a complete game-changer. They have appeared in more finals (three Euros) than have the men (one Euro and one World Cup) and both have won one each. This puts England level with Norway and the Netherlands. Germany by contrast have won 17 (11 Euros and six World Cups) so there’s a bit of catching up to do. You’ll notice is that I’m grouping the men and the women’s results together. The time seems to have come for that. Or has it?
Well, yes and no. The Euro final on Sunday was watched by over 17m people in the UK, making it the most viewed TV event so far this year. The attendance at Wembley was 87,182, not far short of the record 89,874 at the stadium for the 2011 Champions League final and a record for any match there at any Euros game. It was front-page news in every newspaper and on every major news website. Few people, no matter how indifferent they are to our national sport, could have been unaware of it. This means that women’s football is now equal to men’s, or at least is on course to become so, does it? The latter may happen but it has a lot of ground to make up. There are a number of ways the two can be compared but the two most empirical are by attendances and by salaries.
The average attendance at a men’s Premier League (PL) match in 2021-22 was nearly 40,000, according to Sports Gazette. Dropping down the levels, in the Championship this was (all figures rounded) 16,750, League One 10,000, League Two 5,000, the National League 3,000 and the National Leagues North and South 1,000. These figures are all distorted by the uncertainty caused by Covid and by the vagaries of relegation: a big team dropping down can provide a major boost to average attendance for as long as they stay at that level.
As regards salaries, according to Sport-Net, a PL players might on average get £50,000 a week. In the Championship this might be £8,000, in League One £2,100, in League Two £1,400, in the National League £700 and in the National Leagues North and South £350. The latter is about the minimum-wage level of £9.50 an hour for a 35-hour week. The average salary in the UK is, according to AV Trinity, about £31,500pa. The median (the figure below which 50% of the salaries fall) is perhaps more useful as that smooths the effects of very high (or low) salaries which can distort the average. By that measure we get a figure of £26,000. Taking the mid-point of these, we get to £28,750, or £550 a week. Any male player in one of the top five tiers can thus expect to be better off, often considerably so, that the average person.
The salary figures for the football tiers mentioned above are, like the individual attendances, subject to wide variations and would be more useful if the median figures (which I couldn’t easily find) were used. Once again, the distorting effects of a big club that has been relegated might impact on these as there may be players on big contracts which don’t diminish to match the lower revenues from a lower league. Also, a player who can bang in 30 goals a season would command a higher tariff than a reserve goalkeeper.
The higher you go, the smaller the salary from the club is as a percentage of total earnings. Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, earns an estimated £515,000 a week (£26.8m a year) from Manchester United. There are all manner of extra deals available on top of this, including one with Nike that reputedly nets him almost the same again, £24m a year. Leaving aside these massive high rollers, however, there’s a general pattern that these comparative figures show: outside of the PL – which is sui generis, mainly because of TV rights – a male player in tier two to six could regard himself as being very well paid if his weekly salary were the same as the average attendance for a match in that league.
How do the woman compare? Forget about the record-breaking viewing stats and the tabloid headlines: the players who won England’s second major honour are paid an average of about £26,000pa and play in front of average Women’s Super League (WSL) crowds of about 1,000 (as of October 2021), although the record attendance is close to 40,000. The ambition is that this will average will rise to 6,000 by 2024. The events of last weekend will have improved the chances of this happening.
The current reality, however, is that a WSL player on average earns about as much and plays in front of about as many people as does a man playing in one of the National Leagues (the fifth and sixth tiers). For the 23 players in the England Euros squad, there was a maximum of a £67,00 payday (£55,000 for winning the cup plus £2,000 a match), less than what most Manchester United players earn in a week. Another way of looking at the disparity is that Cristiano Ronaldo earned about £300,000 more merely from his Manchester United salary while watching the three and a half weeks of the Euros than did all the 23 England squad members from actually playing in and winning it.
The odd thing is that women’s football used to be incredibly popular, a match at Goodison Park in Liverpool attracting 53,000 on 26 December 1920. Perhaps the elderly men who then ruled the game, and in many ways still do, were alarmed: for the following year England’s governing body of association football stopped women playing at any of its affiliated grounds, decreeing the sport “unsuitable for females.” From this low point just over a hundred years ago the sport is only slowly recovering.
I remember watching a woman’s football match on TV about 20 years ago and it was not that good. Why should it have been, compared to the men’s: the women were amateurs. Fast forward to last Sunday and the match I watched was as skilful, tactical, energetic and competitive as any similar-profile men’s game, but without all the rolling around and imaginary card waving. (If the money increases, that may come, sadly.) England’s opening goal was a thing of rare beauty. It really its worth watching over and over again. For sheer vision and perfection of execution it’s hard to choose between Keira Walsh’s pass and Ella Toone’s chip over the goalie. That’s what professionals do: they make complicated things seem delightfully and elegantly simple. Hopefully the events have last weekend have shown that this isn’t something restricted to men.
• A big section on sport so far but I’m not changing tack just yet. August is the best month because there is both football and cricket going on (as I’ve mentioned before, there are no other sports). The one that I really enjoyed last year was the women’s hundred. The men’s was good: but the women’s had some extra zip to it that I can’t define and it was thins that I watched more of. Having cricket on free-to-air is very dangerous for someone who works from home – I’ll watch til the next boundary, til the next wicket, til the end of the innings – but life is really not worth living unless you can take time out to enjoy something like this. The BBC has made this compilation of some of the best moments from last year’s inaugural competition. My favourite is probably number six, Hungerford’s own Lauren Bell’s disguised slower ball to bowl Alice Capsey. This made both former England spinner Phil Tufnell and former England captain Michael Vaughan purr with delight. If I could get this reaction, I would regard my time on earth as not having been completely wasted.
• Shell, which recently reported record profits of £9.5bn for the second quarter in a row, has announced that it’s giving most of its 82,000 staff a bonus of 8% of their salary “in recognition of the contribution our people have made to Shell’s strong operational performance against a recent challenging backdrop.” This article in The Guardian quotes a spokesperson as stressing that this is “to share in our current operational and financial success – it is not a response to inflation or cost of living challenges.” In other words, don’t come back for more next year if inflation goes up too 20%.
I’m sure all of Shell’s employees work very hard and many of them may well feel they’re underpaid. However, call me an ungracious cynic if you like but I don’t think that selling petrol is that difficult. It’s not like selling red wine or doormats or cruise holidays where the biggest part of the job is convincing people they actually want or, better still, need what you’re offering. Just set up shop on a busy road and as soon as people start running out of petrol, they’ll come to you. It works every time. It gets even better: if the industry decides it wants to increase prices all it has to do is turn the tap down to reduce supply and the market will do the rest. It’s absolutely brilliant.
• And returning to the theme of gender difference, it seems increasingly likely that the two-month-long mud-wrestling championship that is the Conservative Party’s leadership election will produce a female boss. If so, that will mean that three out of the last six Conservative PMs will have been women. There’s still a long way to go, though (the result won’t be announced until early September). This may change if Lynne Truss makes any more blunders like her quickly-refuted plans for regional pay boards: which would, at a stroke, undermine all of the levelling-up policies which, however unfocussed they often were, seemed to be a laudable policy of the government of which she has long been a member. As I mentioned last week, however, we must remember that the policies are being paraded as if for public approval even though only about one in 260 of us have a vote.
If she wins, it looks like we’re going to hear more of the awful phrase “I want to be clear”, which Theresa May used about once every twenty minutes and which Ms Truss recently re-activated when talking about the above-mentioned regional pay boards fiasco. It can be translated as “our PR was defective and the idea was probably wrong anyway but now I’m going to tell you what I really think we should do about this and I want to draw a line under what went before.” One must admit that “I want to be clear” is shorter. Bismarck said that politics was the art of the possible: it’s also the art of the refineable. To be successful, an idea only has to last longer than than the campaign in which it was created. Once elected, the winner then has five years to shape into something that might actually work, or else throw it out of the window when no one’s looking. And, as we know, five years is a long time in politics…
Across the area
• Further information on your district, county or borough council’s activities is referred to in the respective Weekly News sections for the nine areas that Penny Post covers – Hungerford area; Lambourn Valley; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Burghfield area; Wantage area.
• West Berkshire Council is hoping to secure £4.5 million for a series of local projects following bids made earlier this week. “If we succeed in securing a share of the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund,” this statement reads, “we would use £1 million of that money for projects focussed around four main themes. These include: re-designing Newbury Wharf; creating new sports facilities in Purley on Thames; supporting local culture and heritage activities in rural communities; and giving advice and guidance to businesses to help them thrive.”
• Click here for news of summer events and activities for families and children in West Berkshire.
• The latest round of members’ bids (by which local councillors can bit for projects in the ward they represent) has been announced by West Berkshire Council.
• A new group, Draughtbusters, is being created to help tackle draughts and poor insulation in the homes of the district’s elderly and vulnerable residents. More details can be found here.
• Please click here for information about what local councils are doing to help support refugees from Ukraine and how you can help.
• Local charity Connecting Communities in Berkshire (CCB) has stressed that help is available for those struggling with rising energy bills. CCB has been running a project tackling fuel poverty for 10 years and can provide expertise in supporting low-income families that are struggling with the recently confirmed price rises. For more information, contact Helen Dean on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ccberks.org.uk.
• Click here for the best coverage we’ve seen of all things football-related in Berkshire.
• The West Berkshire Covid dashboard can be visited here.
• Click here for the latest museums newsletter from WBC.
• Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council.
• Click here to visit WBC’s business website.
• Click here for details of consultations currently being run by WBC.
• Click here for the latest libraries newsletter from WBC.
• Click here for the latest Covid newsletter from WBC.
• Click here for the latest waste and recycling newsletter from WBC.
• Click here for the latest residents’ newsletter from WBC.
• Click here for the latest business newsletter from WBC.
• Click here for the latest environmental newsletter from WBC.
• West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon Councils have their own web pages relating to the outbreak. Click here as follows for the high-level links for West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon.
• Click here to visit the website for West Berkshire Council’s Community Support Hub. You can also call 01635 503 579 to speak to the the Building Communities Together team. The Hub has also set up two FAQ pages, for residents and for businesses. You can also click here to sign up to receive the Hub’s e-bulletins and click here to see the weekly updates.
• You can click here to choose to receive all or any of West Berkshire Council’s e-newsletters.
• Click here for a post listing the various places which are offering a takeaway and/or delivery service. As with the volunteers’ post above, if you are aware of any others, let us know.
• The animals of the week is this giant tortoise in, of all places, Norfolk. One hears of some pretty odd reasons for delayed trains (when they are running at all) but the announcement about this must have been a first.
• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News includes, as well as ones referred to elsewhere, communications on the subjects of proportional representation, Newbury’s football grounds (naturally), wheelchairs, croquet and criminal damage.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently: see the various news area sections (links above) for further details.
The quiz, the sketch and the song
• So, here we are at the Song of the Week. Something a bit different this week which was brought to my attention recently: Bad Memories by Meduza + James Carter (the latter born and raised down the road in Mortimer). Unusually for a song in this genre there’s a bit of guitar just when I wasn’t expecting it.
• So that brings us to the Comedy Sketch of the Week. There’s no one quite like Steven “it’s a small world – but I wouldn’t want to paint it” Wright. Here he is on his first ever TV appearance on the Carson Tonight show in 1982.
• And that only leaves the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: What makes the years 1066, 1483, 1689 and 1936 unique in English history? Last week’s question was: The record for the most sixes scored in an international T20 match is 33 and was set last month. Which two countries were involved? The answer is not Australia v Sri Lanka or England v West Indies but the keenly contested Balkan derby between those two cricketing powerhouses, Bulgaria and Serbia, on 26 June 2022. Click here for the scorecard if you don’t believe me.