8 Feb 2012

Do footballers trump bankers when it comes to pay?

One holds the UK economy in his hands. The other’s role is even more important – at least if you ask some people. Channel 4 News checks the Top Trumps cards of Stephen Hester and Fabio Capello.

Footballing heroes, banking villains? (Getty)

It’s not been a good day at the office for either man. And – what’s worse – it’s lasted for weeks.

Stephen Hester, the chief executive of the part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland, was forced to waive his £963,000 bonus last month in the face of massive public pressure – and vilification at the hands of the tabloids.

Meanwhile Fabio Capello, the England football team manager, is attending “showdown” talks with the FA over whether he can keep his job after he publicly challenged the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of his captaincy over racism charges. He’s not exactly got the media on his side either, with headlines screaming: “Go now Fabio!” and “Fab time is over”.

So neither man is having the best start to 2012. But don’t feel too bad – they are well-remunerated for their troubles. Mr Capello reportedly takes home £6m and Mr Hester’s basic salary is £1.2m.

But are they worth it? And why does the public seemingly care so much more about high pay for bankers, while generally ignoring the astronomical sums trousered by footballers and their managers? Channel 4 News looks at the issues.


Forget the recent trouble with his bosses. Mr Capello’s been out of favour with the English public since the team’s disastrous World Cup campaign in 2010.

But Simon Kuper, co-author of football book Soccernomics, says this is unfair.

He told Channel 4 News: “Match per match, he is the most successful England manager ever. Overall he has had 42 matches with England, and he has won two-thirds of them outright. That’s better than any other England manager, ever.”

He accepts that the World Cup, in which England was knocked out by Germany in the last 16, was “disappointing”, but said it is important to remember why England always struggle in World Cup competitions – and the reason has nothing to do with the manager.

“The Premier League is the most demanding, so England arrive exhausted. That’s why England are worst in June. And then England losing to Germany, that’s quite normal. They are a bigger country, they have a better record at football.”

Why has Fabio Capello escaped public ire over his pay? (Getty)

‘Defusing a time bomb’

Stephen Hester has also faced criticisms of his performance. He succeeded former RBS boss Fred Goodwin in November 2008, when the bank was in turmoil and being bailed out by the taxpayer.

Since then, its share price has plummeted from 180p to 27p today.

However, Mr Hester has had some dramatic success. In 2008, the bank made a £24bn loss, the biggest in British corporate history. Almost miraculously, from this trough, it managed to make £1.2bn profit in the first nine months of 2011. Mr Hester has also shrunk the business, one of the other priorities.

As he put it himself, he and his team have been “defusing delicately this big time bomb” since 2008. However, as with Mr Capello – who is gearing up for Euro 2012 – Mr Hester still has time to detox his legacy: ensuring that, one day, the bank can return to private ownership and the British taxpayer gets its money back.

Read more: Anatomy of a state-owned bank

Remuneration situation

So both men have worse reputations than they deserve – perhaps they both need better public relations teams. They could certainly afford the best: both are millionaires.

But do they deserve their fat pay packets, compared to others in similar jobs?

[Stephen Hester] is actually quite low paid, relative to people arguably doing much less challenging jobs than he is doing in the banking sector. Sir Philip Hampton, RBS chairman

RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton caused outrage when he told Channel 4 News last week that Mr Hester was a “relatively low-paid” banker. But he’s right. Most of the other banks haven’t admitted what their bonus pools will look like this year yet. But reports suggest Bob Diamond, Barclays chief, could be in line for between £3m and £10m in a share bonus on top of his basic salary of £1.35m.

It’s not the same situation for Mr Capello, who, as it turns out, might be the real fat cat – although the FA declined to comment on his wage when contacted by Channel 4 News.

But based on previous reports, managing England is an incredibly lucrative international role. In fact, it’s the best paid job going, if you want to manage a national team. Research done by Argentinian sports daily Olé during the World Cup in 2010 showed that Mr Capello’s salary outstripped his nearest rival by more than two to one.

At the time it reported that Mr Capello earned $9.9m. He was followed by Italy’s Marcelo Lippi, on $4.1m. Vicente del Bosque, the manager of eventual winners Spain, took home just $2.2m.

Bankers versus footballers (Getty)

At the bottom of the pile was Nigeria’s manager, Shaibu Amodu, on just $180,000. It’s worth noting that, according to the FA’s stats comparison website, England have played Nigeria twice – scraping a 1-0 win once, and drawing 0-0 the other time.

That hardly seems like we are getting our money’s worth. But Soccernomics’ author Mr Kuper has another theory. He believes 20 per cent of club managers are over-performers, and Mr Capello’s strong club career suggests he is in this group.

But international football is different – or is it?

Mr Kuper believes in England there is a tradition of players and managers not thinking as tactically about football as their international counterparts: “In football, talent goes where the money goes. England need a good manager more than, say, Holland, because the general level of football intelligence is lower.”

In football, talent goes where the money goes. Simon Kuper, Soccernomics author

Fair pay?

But do they deserve their cash?

RBS chairman Sir Philip certainly thinks so, which is good news for Mr Hester. Sir Philip told Channel 4 News that Mr Hester deserved his money because his role was “certainly the most challenging job in world banking”.

Perhaps vast banker pay is harder to explain to the public because they don’t see what the bankers are doing – whereas Mr Capello and his ilk face constant scrutiny.

Mr Kuper believes the ultimate question is whether the British public wants to pay for success – economically, or on the sports field.

“What is deserving?” asks Mr Kuper. “You could say a nurse contributes more to society than a footballer. That’s a very valid argument but if you say the England team matters to millions, and if they win it brings a lot of pleasure to the nation, I would say having Capello in charge rather than pretty much any other Englishman or foreigner probably helps the team perform better. How much is success worth to English people?”