It was just over fifty years ago when the age of the millionaire footballer began. “How?” you ask… Well, it was in fact January 1961 when the maximum wage for players was abolished. Who was behind that? None other than Jimmy Hill believe it or not.
Yeah, it’s true. The former-Fulham striker and media pundit became PFA chairman in 1957. He campaigned tirelessly to have the £20 per-week maximum wage scrapped and ultimately achieved this four years later. The generously-chinned one would later claim that his crusade to have the maximum wage scrapped began the moment Leeds centre-half John Charles signed for Italian giants Juventus in August 1957, quintupling his weekly pay packet with the move.
“John Charles and Jimmy Greaves (who was AC Milan-bound) were going out to Italy and earning vastly different sums of money,” Hill explained. “In the end we’d have lost all our top-class players”. It was then Jimmy Hill’s own club Fulham which suffered from footballers’ new financial clout – they were forced to fork out £100 every week to keep the talented midfielder Johnny Haynes at Craven Cottage.
In the years that followed, players became millionaires and lived extravagant lifestyles (see George Best), player-power was a problem (see Carlos Tevez) and attitudes stunk up dressing rooms for decades all because of dough. So the next time you think to yourself “too much money has football ruined”, remember this – it’s basically all Jimmy Hill’s fault.