Which event started the cult of the modern-day celebrity footballer and who was the first beneficiary? 


Modern-day football at the highest level, and particularly in the Premier League, is littered with major and minor celebrities and young men of considerable football talent and even more considerable wealth and celebrity status. Going back through the decades it is true to say that there has always been a fair smattering of men who, with the assistance of very able and well-connected agents and an entourage of other assistants, have made the most of their very short-lived celebrity status. One thinks of David Beckham through the '90's and ‘00’s and Kevin Keegan through the ‘70’s and ‘80’s as just two examples of men who made the most of their talents and who also made themselves (and no doubt countless others) extremely wealthy and influential.

However, I have always wondered what prompted the start of this phenomenon and just who was the first to benefit. Football has always had its stars right from its inception and always had a fan-base that wanted to be just like their heroes. The likes of CB Fry (1872-1956), Raich Carter (1913-1994) and others excelled at their sport and supplemented their incomes both during and after their sporting careers by also excelling in other sports (both Carter and Fry also played cricket professionally) and in other areas (Fry was also a teacher, politician, writer amongst others). The majority of premier league players now would have no such need to work after their career is over – although Beckham is now enormously wealthy indeed, his earnings from football alone eclipse anything older players could ever have dreamed of.

Yet, there was an event in the early 1960's which was to arguably change modern-day football forever. In 1961, under the leadership of Fulham player and future TV personality Jimmy Hill, the PFA (Professional Footballers Association) called out its members to take strike action. The aim was to force The Football League and the clubs to abolish the maximum wage – a salary cap in today’s parlance - which meant players could be paid no more than £20 a week during the season. (In the summer they received £17.)

The decision to strike was the culmination of a campaign that had been going on almost since The League kicked off in 1888. When Liverpool first won the championship, in 1900/01, the average wage of their players was £7 a week. The following season The Football League introduced a maximum weekly wage of £4. In 1920 it stood at £9, but four years later it was down to £8. Fast forward to 1953, the year of "the Matthews final", and the upper limit was still only £15, reduced to £13 over the summer. Before the Second World War a footballer’s pay was above that of the average worker. By 1960, despite the advent of television and European competition, the gap had closed - by comparison the average UK weekly wage in 1960 was £14 2s 1d.

With just 72 hours to go before the picket lines were due to be manned at grounds around England, the League management committee persuaded the clubs to agree to abolish the maximum wage. Coincidentally, Hill's Fulham colleague Johnny Haynes was the most high-profile beneficiary of the lifting of the maximum wage, becoming the Football League’s first £100-a-week man in 1961 (equivalent to £2006 at 2017 value).

John Norman "Johnny" Haynes (17 October 1934 – 18 October 2005) was an English footballer, best known for his 18 years at Fulham. An inside forward, Haynes is widely regarded as the greatest footballer ever to play for the London club, particularly noted for his exceptional passing skill and ability to read a game. An accomplished international, he also made 56 appearances for his country, including 22 as captain (many of them while playing for Fulham in the Second Division).

He was born in Kentish Town, London and signed for Fulham as a 15 year old amateur in 1950 and made his senior debut in May 1952. Haynes made his debut for the England football team in October 1954, scoring a goal in a 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast. He first captained England in 1960 and played for them at two World Cups (1958 and 1962).

His career was severely affected by a car accident in 1962 on Blackpool promenade, when the sports car in which he was returning late to his hotel was blown by a gust of wind into the path of another vehicle. Haynes broke bones in both feet and badly injured a knee. He recounts that the police officer who attended the incident reassured him by saying "Don't worry son, you've only broken your legs". He missed a season and, when he returned to the Fulham side, was not quite the same player. Prior to the accident he had captained England 22 times, and, being only 27, was expected to lead them in the 1966 World Cup; but he was never again selected for the national team. In total he made 657 appearances for Fulham, and scored 157 goals.

In 1970, he retired professionally aged 35, and joined the South African club, Durban City, for whom he played one season and helped them to win the national championship. This was his only winner's medal in club football.

On 17 October 2005 Haynes was driving his car when he suffered a brain haemorrhage, which effectively rendered him brain dead instantaneously. Although kept on a ventilator for some 30 hours, the ventilator was turned off on the evening of 18 October 2005.

In 2002 Haynes became an Inaugural Inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his football talents and impact on the English game.

As mentioned above, amongst the first beneficiaries of Hill's triumph was Haynes, for whom Italy's AC Milan had made Fulham an offer. A couple of seasons earlier, the club's chairman, the comedian Tommy Trinder, had joked that Haynes was worth £100 a week. Now he found himself having to pay him that - although it was only half of what Haynes would have got in Milan had Trinder allowed him to move.

Along with Spurs' captain Danny Blanchflower, Haynes was in the first wave of footballers to become a celebrity of TV advertising. Blanchflower advertised Shredded Wheat, Haynes promoted Brylcreem (succeeding the cricketer Denis Compton), but which soon, in the dry-haired mid-Sixties and onwards, took a nosedive in popularity.

With his skill as a footballer and his undoubted presence, it's impossible to imagine what he would earn today. Johnny Haynes earned £100 a week; the likes of Paul Pogba of Manchester United get around £290,000 a week. Johnny Haynes’s career was never quite as fulfilled as it should have been, but he was a marvellous player for Fulham and for a time with England. But just a few year or so younger, and he might have been both rich and in Ramsey’s team for the 1966 World Cup. He was however undeniably a man before his time and very definitely benefited hugely from the abolition of the maximum wage – as many others have done since.