Should footballers earn more than nurses?

Surely nurses should earn more since they help to save peoples' lives. But football does make a lot of money - some of which goes towards good causes. This is a tricky one...

Guess the salary

What does it take to be a premier league footballer?

How hard do footballers really have to work? And what are they expected to do when they're off the pitch?  



Playing football might sound like the perfect job for any fan of the game but what does it actually involve? 

Former footballer Anwar Uddin - who played for clubs such as West Ham and Bristol Rovers- explains that: “When you play football, it’s very different to most jobs and working environments, because you’re there to play football and everything else is more or less taken care of.” 

That means your mind is freed up to focus on the game and there is nothing else for you to worry about. You train, you go to the gym, and you play. 

“You won’t think of anything further than the season: keeping the team in the league, winning the cup, winning the league…keeping fit, and then the season finishes, you rest, and [then] it’s on to the next one,” says Uddin.

Training for the top

Staying fit is difficult. Training for footballers is a tricky balance between on-the-pitch drills with team-mates and hard work in the gym, which can sometimes be lonely. And the training varies according to where you play on the pitch – midfielders need to work on their sprinting, strikers need to prepare for the most physical contact, and defenders have to do a lot of jumping.

And there are unique demands for female professional players compared to their male counterparts. Many of the stars of the FA Women’s Super League combine football with study or another job – meaning sometimes they have to train in the evenings after a full day’s work.

It also seems that female professional footballers are more prone to knee ligament injuries – possibly because women have less leg muscle mass to keep everything in place. That means they have to work hard to build up their legs and avoid that kind of career-ending injury.

All players have to think about what they’re eating as well – they need to put the right fuel into their body to make sure they’re ready for 90 minutes of intense graft, covering up to nine miles on the pitch.

Football training

In the news

Players don’t always realise it or like it, but they’re in the public eye – no matter what team they play for. This means they sometimes have to talk to journalists.

“Each player understands their media responsibilities,” says a press officer for a Football League club. He says that these responsibilities include interviews for the club website before or after a match, or taking part in features for the matchday programme.

He adds, though, that talking to reporters can be nerve-wracking, particularly for young players who aren’t used to it. “Players are quite good to deal with and appreciate that they have to fulfil their media duties. If you have a fairly young group of players it can become difficult bringing them out to the press after a defeat, so that is when the more experienced professionals are required to step in and do the post-match interview.”

The press officer says that some of the most important work footballers do actually goes beyond the pitch – it’s in the community. They regularly visit schools, hospices and other places, to take along gifts and chat to football fans.

Life after football

Uddin says that he tells players now to get involved in community work – or anything else that interests them. The average retirement age for a male player in England is around 35, with female players sometimes opting to hang up their boots sooner or take a career break to start a family. Professional football is not a job for life.

“I’ll always encourage players to actively stimulate themselves mentally away from the game because sometimes whether [your career is] going good, bad or indifferent, if it’s all you do, all you read, all you see, I think sometimes it can be a bit too much,” he says. “I think football players have so much power: they have such an aura, the positive impact they can make, to the wider community, to fans, it’s absolutely massive.”

Now Uddin has another role in football – working to encourage more diversity in the game as an executive at the Football Supporters’ Federation. Though many players go into football management or coaching or media, there are plenty of other ways to stay involved in the game – former Charlton star Paul Mortimer works for the anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out, for example.

But plenty of others took the time to develop their skills during their career – and moved into an entirely new field after retirement. Former Wales international Barry Horne completed a chemistry degree and became a teacher; and Arjan de Zeeuw, who played for Wigan, Barnsley and Portsmouth, is now a private investigator.

So being a footballer isn’t just about kicking a ball around the pitch and picking up a big pay cheque. There is much more to the job than that – and plenty of players are not making massive amounts of money. How much did you already know about a footballer’s life? Do you think they should do more work off the pitch and in the community?

Football Supporters Federation

A day in the life of a student nurse

What's it like for a student nurse? What skills do you learn and what are the rewards and challenges of the course? Sophie, a first-year student nurse at a UK university, shares her experiences.

Premier League clubs and players paid £2.4 billon in tax during 2013-14. That’s enough to pay the salaries of 114,283,714 new nurses.

Premier League clubs and players paid £2.4 billion in tax during 2013-14. That’s enough to pay the salaries of 114,283,714 new nurses.

Footballers give back

Playing football might be hard, physical work – but it also gives the top stars a chance to make a difference to society. Here, football experts talk about how your favourite Premier League players donate time and money to their favourite good causes.


When England goalkeeper Jack Butland sent a tweet on New Year’s Eve 2015, he couldn’t have known the impact it would have.

He was publicising a message from the Great Britain Deaf women’s football team, who were seeking funding to pay for them to play in the forthcoming Deaf World Cup.

“I've learnt a lot from major tournaments, experiences I'll never forget, I'd love for you to experience the same!” he wrote, encouraging his followers to donate to their appeal.

Then he promptly gave £5,000 himself, meaning they’d reached half their target immediately.

The top international stars are lucky that they can help others out financially – and the England squad do that regularly, through their own charity.

The England Footballers’ Foundation has been running for ten years and gives the players the chance to donate to a good cause the fees they would normally get for playing an international match. They also use their high profile to help charities – if they attend a fundraising event, there will be TV cameras and reporters there, meaning that lots of people will find out about it.

Success and celebrity

Kick it Out is the anti-discrimination organisation working in football. They run campaigns and events to promote awareness of the problems caused by racism and other kinds of discrimination in the game. Education officer Hayley Bennett says that famous players are really important to the success of their work.

“I do a lot of work in schools – and it’s going to carry a lot more weight if a footballer gets up in front of a class [and talks about the issues],” she says.

“When we first started it was absolutely crucial we had players like [Arsenal and the Netherlands’] Dennis Bergkamp supporting us, saying [discrimination] is not acceptable. That means so much more than just a bunch of people saying, ‘We need to do this.’”

Kick it out logo

Bennett says that the footballers who give up their time to work with Kick it Out are very interested in the topic – and really committed to the cause. 

She adds that top players have lots of things they have to do, so finding the time to help out a good cause and find out about the subject is sometimes difficult – even if they’re really keen. 

“People don’t understand how much footballers have to commit to - they’re human, they’ve got family they don’t see enough,” she explains. “If they have time, they’ll try and use it.

“Some people are still uncomfortable talking about issues [for example, racism, sexism and homophobia]. If you overcome that fear, which does take a lot of support from other people, we can make something happen.”

Champions of change

Plan International, a charity working globally, has had a partnership with Chelsea football club since 2015. Between them, they fund a project in Colombia called Champions of Change. This aims to build better relationships between boys and girls in the communities there, using football as a way to do that.

“Colombia is a place with a big gang culture,” explains Plan’s press and media manager, Charlie King. “It’s quite macho - young guys are brought up to behave in a certain way, girls are brought up generally to think their place is a very domestic role- they’re there to bring up kids and look after the house. So the project that we run with Chelsea is all about combating [fighting against] those stereotypes.”

King says that having Chelsea on board ensures a positive reaction from teenagers interested in football. He says that the players from the men’s and women’s teams have been incredibly supportive of the project. He mentions John Terry and Willian as just two of the Blues stars who have been involved in events for Plan, as well as American international, Crystal Dunn and Switzerland superstar, Ramona Bachmann.

“We’ve found them all to be really engaged, really interested and really aware of their position as role models and keen to use it,” he says.

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is often described as the “most charitable footballer in the world” – he donated his Champions League win bonus to charity, and donated £5m to Save the Children after an earthquake in Nepal. Some footballers are working hard to use their celebrity for good – but are they doing enough? They get paid so much – do you think they should be donating more of their money and time to help out charities and other good causes?

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo tackles club teammate, Luka Modrić during a friendly match against Croatia in June 2013. CC-BY-SA 3.0

5 ways nursing has changed over time

  1. Qualifications
    1. Florence Nightingale (known as the founder of modern nursing) started the first formal nursing training in 1860. At this stage, teaching tended to focus heavily on etiquette, like how to be polite to your patients and dress smartly. Even as recently as the 1970s, new nurses would learn the large parts of the job from their ward sister. Take wounds called bedsores for example: ward sisters would treat them with anything from talcum powder to porridge! And whatever your ward sister used, you would use too. Nowadays, nursing is a graduate career, meaning you have to study a three-year degree to become a qualified nurse. Nursing degree apprenticeships are being developed in 2017 to offer a flexible route into the profession.
  2. Lifestyle
    1. Nurses work incredibly hard to keep their patients happy and healthy, often working long hours and on weekends. But before 1950, aspiring nurses had another commitment to make when choosing the career: as a nurse, you were not allowed to get married. Hospital nurses were all women. They lived together in a home, which had to be kept tidy and was inspected every day. Lights went out at 10pm in time for bed! It might seem odd to us now for a career to determine your lifestyle like that. With improvements in personal transport and communications, nurses have since been given more freedom like any other profession. This has included men becoming registered nurses too, although currently only around 10% of nurses in the UK are male. 
  3. Daily duties 
    1. Our ability to treat symptoms depends on the medicines and machines we have available to us. In 1941, a new drug was tested on humans for the first time. Penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic (a drug that kills bacteria), was used to treat an infected scratch. Although the patient didn’t survive, his medical team immediately saw the potential for antibiotics to save millions of lives from infection. Similarly, in the 1950s, dialysis machines were brought in for patients with kidney failure, and ventilators were invented for patients who couldn’t breathe by themselves. Together, these and other technology breakthroughs meant that nurses no longer had to spend their working hours sterilizing wards, performing lengthy procedures and cleaning infected wounds - instead they could be treating more complex diseases. Nowadays, nurses are able to prescribe drugs and are trained to deal with a wide range of diseases without needing a doctor’s approval. They also carry out research with patients, to help us understand how to treat people better.
  4. Demands on healthcare
    1. In the UK, life expectancy has been steadily increasing since the mid-1800s. In just the last 100 years, life expectancy has increased a huge amount, from 55 to 85 years. Standards of living have improved, technology has boomed and we have learned a lot about how different diseases work. This means that people now survive the conditions they used to die from, like the bacterial infections we now treat with a just a few pills or an injection. There are more people around in general, each with more health problems to be treated. The impact of our ageing population on healthcare is huge: since 2002/3 emergency hospital admissions have increased by 1/3. Hospital treatments have become shorter but more common: now a condition that would take a week to treat can be cured in a day. Altogether, more people coming into hospitals with more health problems means that nurses have to see far more patients and deal with more complicated needs. 
  5. The Internet
    1. Technology has huge power to help patients, and to change how nurses interact with them. With access to the internet, patients can access more information about their medical condition, how their treatment works and why they use it. They can also get support and advice from people in a similar position, or expertise from a range of medical professionals. This shift in where patients get their information from has had a big impact on how nurses best do their jobs. Now, nurses can help patients keep track of their own medications and test results, giving them a different role in a patient’s care than simply administering treatments. There is so much potential for technology in healthcare and nursing, who knows what the next development will be.

So how much should you get paid for your job?

Well, this depends on a lot of factors e.g. your skill set, what other people are getting paid around you. The process of supply and demand plays a part too. But what do economists think of the minimum wage (i.e. the lowest hourly rate an employer can pay an employee)? Is this always a good thing?

Should footballers earn more than nurses?

  • Supply and demand

    There are several factors that determine how much you get paid for doing a job but one of the key ones relates to the process of supply and demand. Let’s revisit the example of a high earner like Ronaldo… The number of people who have world-class football skills (i.e. the supply) is low and the demand to watch world-class football games and players is very high. Having a super star player like Ronaldo in your team generates millions in tickets and merchandise sales. And so his football club considered his high salary worth it in the long run. Do you think this is fair? 

  • It’s excessive

    The average salary of a first-team Premier League footballer is £2.4 million. With this income, you could buy 192 Ford Fiestas, 4006 iPhone 7s and 802,676 Big Macs. Does any one person really need all this money? Think of all the nurses this sum could fund through training…

  • They give something back

    The England Footballers’ Foundation gives players the chance to donate to charity, the fees they would normally get for playing an international match. Players also use their high profile to help charities – if they attend a fundraising event, there will be TV cameras and reporters there, meaning that lots of people will find out about it. For example, in collaboration with the organisation ‘Kick it Out’, players get involved with campaigns and events to promote awareness of the problems caused by racism and other kinds of discrimination in the game. Plus, not to forget the high contribution footballers make in taxes.

  • Nurses save lives

    Nurses work incredibly hard to keep their patients happy and healthy. New advances in technology mean that time is freed for nurses to prescribe drugs and deal with a wide range of diseases without needing a doctor’s approval. They also carry out research with patients to help us understand how to treat people better. Our growing population means that nurses have to see far more patients and deal with more complicated needs. You could argue that this life-saving work is more deserving of a high salary than a footballer’s. What do you think?