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Fair pay
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-09-06 09:53:06
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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article where I called upon the president of the UEFA, Michel Platini, to do something about the unbelievable money some clubs spend on transfers of players, while on the same time there are talented athletes playing literally for nothing. Of course I didn’t expect Michel Platini to spend his time reading Ovi magazine, and particularly not my articles. But it seems I was one of the just too many people who said exactly the same thing. After all the amount of money spent on Cristiano Ronaldo, in a period where everybody talks about the recession and the numbers of unemployed, all the protesting voices were at least provocative.

Michel Platini already has a project on the move, called fair-pay, and it is equivalent to fair-play. Fair-play is sort of an ethics code among football players and football teams. It helps the game to clean up from anything that spoils its image, like prejudice, racism, hooliganism and violence inside and outside of the game. The concept has proven to be successful, even in small matters – where it’s sometimes more important. The most important thing though; the blue print of fair-play is based on ethics, not …money!

Ethics and money is the eternal question. If you have a private company, it is ethical to reward your best employee. Actually, the person you think is the most valuable in the company can get twice as much the rest of them, even as much as what the rest of the employees get together. This is ethical in a world where competition is something legitimate. Apparently it is also permissible. If I want to bring a new employee into my company that I saw somewhere else, and I think he/she will improve my production and profits, I can do it and I can pay him/her as much I want to, even if that means to pay him/her double the amount of what everybody else is getting. Again, that is permissible. Actually, in the capitalist business world, it is ethics.

Is it ethical towards the rest of my workers? The usual answer is …who cares! As long as I do my job, who cares? The only thing that the state can do to protect the rest of the workers is to demand a minimum wage. To demand a wage that gives people and their families a life in dignity. Does it work? In theory it does. Apparently in the USA, this is one of the late Ted Kennedy’s victories.

But even though a state can legislate a minimum wage, it cannot legislate a maximum. And this is exactly what Michel Platini has to deal with; legislating ethics.

Michel Platini might say that the actions of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea or Italian Milan are provocative, but he cannot push them to follow a code of ethics that might damage their profits. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it all comes down to: money, profits, and shareholders! To follow the fair-play blue print was one thing; a lot of it depended on the athletes themselves; but to follow the fair-pay blue print is another story all together.

I gave the example of a private company to prove my point, but there is one small detail I missed, and I think this makes all the difference. If I employ a new worker with all privileges, there is no crowd outside my company cheering, and there are no kids in the city wearing jerseys with his or her name. When the person responsible of Real Madrid came up with the idea to ‘buy’ Cristiano Ronaldo, they made the incredible calculation that in two months they are going to sell over one million jerseys all over the world. So their biggest expense is the cost of the transfer. After that, everything is pure profit. And it is a gigantic profit, if you think how fast they can cover the expenses. Apparently, Cristiano Ronaldo has become a product, just like a soda or toothpaste!

The point is that in football there is an element that can be the regulatory element, it can make the fair-pay work, but in order for this to happen, Michel Platini must persuade millions of fans around the world who follow the clubs. These are the millions that will buy the jerseys. Remember what happened with Manchester United when American investors were interesting in buying the club? The football fans have the power to turn things around. Michel Platini just has to find a way to reach the fans. And for sure, football fans love their teams, not the team’s owners! This is something that will never happen with a private enterprise!


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Emanuel Paparella2009-09-06 12:30:08
Ah, we are back to the ethical issue of “distributive justice” which to many ears accustomed to a type of savage capitalism merely concerned with profits and the so called “bottom line” (allowing the obscenity of a CEO earning as much as 600 times more than a regular worker in a corporation) sounds like socialism or even communism. Such an accusation has been hurled at President Obama. It proceeds from a kind of mind-set that knows all about the selfish grabbing of profits but very little about justice, distributive or otherwise. A managerial class this that fixes for itself its own compensations and is too myopic socially to be able to go beyond paying attention to mere impersonal market forces and stock owners devoid of a sense of community and the idea of the common good.
In the social encyclical Caritas in Veritate (chapter 3, paragraphs 34-42) the present Pope addresses such a crucial issue under the heading of “Brotherhood, economic development and civil society” and reminds the above mentioned mind-set that distributive justice and social justice need to be part of the political equation when it comes regulating criteria of a market economy. It is precisely a deregulation oblivious of distributive justice that has led the whole West to its present impass. The market is not an impersonal deterministic demiurge but it is created by man and man can regulate it for the common good. What is needed are fair laws, redistribution laws guided by political wisdom, for to invest and to produce has moral dimensions.

Emanuel Paparella2009-09-06 12:31:35
Here is an exemplary passage (from paragraph 42, p. 68 of the encyclical) in its original Italian: “Se si legge deterministicamente la globalizazzione, si perdono I criteri per valutarla ed orientarla. Essa è una realtà umana e puo’ avere a monte vari orientamenti culturali sui quali occorre esercitare il discernimento. La verità della globalizazione come processo e il suo criterio etico fondamentale sono dati dall’unità della famiglia umana e dal suo sviluppo nel bene. Occorre quindi impegnarsi incessantemente per favorire un orientamento culturale personalista e comunitario, aperto alla transcendenza, del processo di integrazione planetaria.”
Free translation into English: If one interprets globalization in a deterministic mode, one is bound to lose the criteria to assess it and guide it. It too is a human reality underpinned by various cultural orientations about which man needs to exercise discernment. The ultimate truth of globalization and its fundamental ethical criterion is given by the fundamental fact of the unity of the human family and its development within the common good. There is therefore an urgent need to commit ourselves to a cultural orientation of the global integrative process based on personalistic, humanitarian criteria open to transcendence.
Is anybody listening? It is doubtful. The above mentioned savage capitalism mind-set and those who deal in bias and caricatures of the Catholic Church have already exhibited accusations of “communism” at the Pope, not to speak of the Catholics who don’t bother reading the letters sent by their spiritual leader; which may mean that things have to get much worst before they begin to get better. Time will tell. We certainly live in interesting times.

ap2009-09-06 16:43:43
Yes, he became a product and is treated like a product, not like a person.
It's the same thing with Mourinho, after being totally humiliated in the media for leaving Chelsea to go to Italy, they still use his image in big screens to advertise Sky media in the Westfield Shopping mall, London, for example.

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