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Eden Hazard and Justin Welby in the news

Two items in the news caught my attention last week: the £57M signing contract of a footballer named Eden Hazard to continue playing football for the UK Premier League Chelsea team for a further five-and-a-half years (12 February 2015), and Archbishop Justin Welby’s alleged apology for the Allies’ bombing of Dresden in February 1945 during World War 2 (15 February 2015).  First Hazard’s contract.

Eden Hazard, Wikimedia Commons image, a database of freely usable media files.  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

Eden Hazard, Wikimedia Commons image

Eden Hazard is a Belgian who has been playing football for Chelsea following a transfer from Lille in 2012.  According to various sources [1, 2, 3], Hazard has just signed a contract worth £57M ($88M) to continue playing for the team for a further five-and-a-half years starting with the 2016 season.  £57M!   That equates to a tad under £200,000 a week.  That is an enormous sum of money for, well, just playing football, a game I contend that is as much about luck as it is about talent.  Even after both Hazard’s agent and the taxman have taken their cuts, it is still a very large amount of take-home pay for someone who is only 24 years old.  None of the reports go into the detail of the contract. What if Hazard breaks a leg or is otherwise unable to play during the five-and-a-half year period?  Does he go on half pay until he returns to the pitch?    Does Hazard have to score a minimum number of goals throughout the season?  What if he fails to do this?  What if he exceeds the minimum?  Does he get a bonus?  The terms and conditions of the contract must read like a nightmare series of what if scenarios.

But, the basic question is why is Hazard worth this sort of money?  I’ve never played football; don’t watch it on television or at a live game; and have no interest in the sport but I concede that many others do and that the sport is big business but even so, £200,000 a week seems excessive.  Based on a 35 hour week, the figure equates to £5,694/hour – that is, 876 times the UK Government’s 2015 minimum wage of £6.50/hour.  How is he worth this hourly rate?

I think this rate of pay for a talent that lies wholly in the ability to kick a round ball into a tight space is, quite frankly, obscene.  If the Premier League has this sort of money to spend, it is better spent in my opinion in helping lesser clubs to improve by providing better training facilities, stadiums, kit and more opportunities to travel to meet non-local teams.

I don’t begrudge Hazard his money but I wonder how our national game has developed into one that pays £200,000 a week to some of its players.

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2950726/Eden-Hazard-signs-new-200-000-week-five-year-contract-Chelsea.html

[2] http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/31440710

[3] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/football/clubs/chelsea/article4352106.ece

Justin Welby. Photograph snagged from Wikimedia Commons, a database of freely usable media files.  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

Justin Welby, Wikimedia Commons image

Now to Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England’s most senior bishop.

Archbishop ‘says sorry’ for bombing the Nazis: Justin Welby attacked for ‘bizarre apology’ for Dresden raids, but makes no reference to RAF heroes killed by Hitler

Thus screamed the headlines in the online Daily Mail newspaper [4].  Oh no, I thought.  Not another stupid apology.  These raids carried out by RAF and Allied aircraft bombers occurred in February 1945 during WW2 and, allegedly, killed an estimated 25,000 inhabitants.  Why did Welby apologise?  To whom did he apologise?   Why did he even feel that he could offer the apology when he wasn’t alive in 1945?  (He was born in 1956.)   What was the value of such an apology?  Who would benefit from the apology?  I felt a rant coming on.

But I checked before attacking the Archbishop for making the apology.  The Archbishop did not apologise.  The Daily Mail article writers, Larisa Brown and Steve Doughty, had pumped up what he said for reasons unknown: maybe to boost circulation, maybe to attract attention, maybe to besmirch the Archbishop, maybe because their understanding of the meaning of basic English words is somewhat lacking?

Welby spoke about the Dresden bombings and expressed his regret that they occurred but he did not apologise for them. He spoke of his profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow but that is not an apology.  In fact, on his own website a day later he wrote [5]:

What a sadness then that late in the evening someone showed me a headline in the Daily Mail saying that I had apologised for the RAF bombing the Nazis. No honest reading of what I said in the church and on the BBC afterwards could come anywhere near such an idea.

And yet others were quick to condemn the alleged apology: notably former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth, historian Professor Anthony Glees and Tory MP Philip Davies [4].   Why did these people not check the facts before condemning the man?  Expressing regret is not making an apology.  Merriam-Webster defines regret as being sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair, or an expression of distressing emotion (as sorrow or disappointment) neither of which definitions admits to an apology: an expression of error or discourtesy.

Welby has the right to express his regret.   Larisa Brown and Steve Doughty do not have the right to distort his expression.  It is they who should apologise to Justin Welby.

[4] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2952945/Archbishop-says-sorry-bombing-Nazis-Justin-Welby-attacked-bizarre-apology-Dresden-raids-makes-no-reference-RAF-heroes-killed-Hitler.html

[5] http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/blog.php/23/reflections-on-dresden

[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/justin-welby/dresden-archbishop-of-canterbury_b_6682962.html