Soccer

Jack: Judging Bradley on his salary is misguided

{eot}
Kristian Jack
1/17/2014 1:32:38 PM
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Back in the mid-90s, I was walking the Royal Lytham golf course on the opening morning of the British Open when my friend and I found ourselves in the washroom with Greg Norman.

The Australian star was struggling with his first round but not as much as my mate who lived and died on every swing after putting a large bet on the 'Great White Shark' the day before.

Norman was valued by the bookies as a 14/1 shot at winning the Open.

After a few words of banter with us, just an hour into the event, that value had dramatically changed. He would have a bad day, yet still get paid; my friend had an awful day and would throw his betting ticket away after the second round.

I have never really been a large fan of golf. I understand the appeal of walking outside watching people do what you wish you could but, Majors aside, tournaments didn't do it for me.

This has mainly got to do with the way their governing bodies rank players.

Pull out a newspaper in the middle of summer and head towards the standings section and amongst actual league tables, dictated by wins and losses in many sports, is golf's money list.

A ranking that separates players by the amount of money they earn has always seemed pompous to me.

I understand they make way more than most people and good luck to each of them but printing it in the form of standings was just a way of rubbing it in for me.

There are just some things as sports fans that we do not need to know.

What sportsmen and women make is one of them.

There is a reason that the pay slip you get from your employer is sealed. There is a reason you likely have no idea what the majority of the people you work with make. There is a reason you have no idea what your neighbour makes or his neighbour.

With that information available, people start to judge people differently. Why don't I get what he has? What does the boss see in that person and not me?

Most people in life tend to overrate their own capabilities and believe they are worth more to their employer than they get. Giving them private information on people is counterproductive and brings out unfortunate traits such as jealousy and greed.

Professional sports are no different. In fact, it is much worse where a culture has been created that allows players, who believe they are of a similar talent, to use a colleague's salary to challenge their company to make sure they get paid what they believe they are worth.

Thankfully, in Europe most sports salaries are hidden. We do not know what the England cricket captain, the star Welsh rugby full back, or even the Formula One World Champion makes. Even the Premier League does its best to not advertise weekly salaries of players. Those negotiations take place where they should - behind a closed door.

In North America, where the salaries of all major stars are easily accessible, these battles take place in front of the public eye, allowing agents to make names for themselves and become stars on television programs and radio shows.

On Monday, Toronto FC paraded Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley as their new signings and it certainly created a buzz around the world. The MLS club was allowed their moment in the sun for a few hours before the attacks started around the salary given to US midfielder Bradley.

It is now the end of the week and they are still coming.

ESPN analyst and former MLS star, Alejandro Moreno, went out of his way three times during the MLS SuperDraft coverage to question whether 'a defensive midfielder is worth that much money.'

Bradley is far from a defensive midfielder but that is not the point. The point is Toronto FC believes the salary - reported to be $6.5 million per year for five years - is very much worth getting Michael Bradley.

And that should be enough for people to think he is worth it.

However, some have written that Bradley's salary now means 'comparable' MLS midfielders, such as Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake, are underpaid.

A simple google search shows us Beckerman is paid over $300,000 per season; one of the highest salaries in the league. That is a value he has created after some phenomenal seasons at that level.

Beckerman is not coming from Europe. He is, however, part of the Major League Soccer Players Union that agreed to league rules that allows teams to only go above such a maximum salary for up to three players per team. If his team is willing to do that for him (and no one will know better than them if he is worth it) the rules are in place to do so.

Last year, on league DP's, Beckerman told the Salt Lake Tribune: "It's good for our league, it's good for teams, it's good for young players, it's good for everybody. It's a win-win situation. If you can find one that fits in your team, then I don't see any reason why not to do it."

Toronto FC have found three reasons to do it this winter. Signing three DP's was called 'financial suicide' by MLSE President Tim Leiweke this week but in reality, for his owners, these are key opportunities for them in a salary cap league to differentiate themselves from many of the other clubs.

That is why Bradley is getting paid what he is. A US international left Europe at 26 to come to a club in Canada who have gained just 85 points in the last three seasons, winning 17 of their last 102 league games.

If the club achieve the lofty goals they want to while Bradley is at the club, they will put past disappointments firmly in the rearview mirror but no one should forget about them when assessing Bradley's wages.

Over the next five seasons when the salaries are printed, we are going to see a large seven figure sum next to the name of Bradley and it is important to remember why he is getting that money.

Many would argue that the US international had 6.5 million reasons to return home to Major League Soccer and that is hard to question, but now onlookers have 6.5 million reasons to look at Bradley differently and that is a pity.

Seeing that has already started, you can guarantee we will hear the words 'he isn't worth that much money' once he starts playing. This is not a knock on Bradley's talent. He is, after all, arguably already the most talented midfielder in the league, but it is just the nature of how people will judge a player who won't score goals every week and show up in highlight reels.

However, what he is is a player who was available and willing to listen to Toronto FC when they were a laughing stock around the league.

What if, privately, Toronto FC bosses knew how difficult it was to get him to even pick up his phone and talk to them?

Two numbers are talked about with Bradley and that's the transfer fee paid to Roma and his, now, much reported salary figure. What if, privately, Toronto FC bosses created a third category for him called 'convincing money' to help him say yes to a team synonymous with failure? What if, privately, Toronto FC felt Bradley was worth, on the field, more like $3.25 million per year but had no problem paying him the same amount of money per season to come and represent them and change a losing culture?

This is the major problem with salaries being available. They are simple numbers that have no instructions next to them from who decided them.

It is a pity they are accessible to allow people to judge players differently but if the information is going to continue to be made available, it is essential those who point the figures gather all the facts before doing so.



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