Alan Shearer: the player. £15m world record signing for Newcastle United in 1996. Worth every penny.
Alan Shearer: the pundit. Revealed to earn £450,000 a year for his quips on Match of the Day. Absolutely not worth every penny.
The much-awaited (by journalists and Twitter, anyway) announcement of the salaries of BBC employees were revealed today and were basically what a lot of people were expecting.
There is a big disparity between the earnings of men and women, and very little diversity amongst its top earners.
The headline grabbers: Chris Evans, undeniably one of the greatest broadcasters of the past two decades, receives £2.25-2.5m. For comparison, Ant and Dec, who appear on ITV, earned around £30m last year – although it’s unclear how much of this is for their direct salary, rather than other earnings.
Gary Lineker, excellent, well-informed anchor of Match of the Day, which attracts 4 million viewers and is the flagship programme for the world’s most popular sport, receives £1.7m. It’s a lot, but it’s not entirely surprising.
Meanwhile, many are surprisingly low; Jonathan Agnew, rapidly entering into the realms of one of the greatest sports broadcasters of all-time, earns £150,000 a year – probably not a huge amount per hour considering how long Test Match Special broadcasts last for. Ken Bruce, probably second only to Chris Evans in the radio show talent stakes, earns ‘only’ £250,000. Even Graham Norton, at £850,000, seems pretty good value considering the calibre of guests he regularly attracts to his much-watched show.
Strictly host Claudia Winkelman is the highest-paid woman, earning between £450,000 and £499,999 – that’s a huge gulf between her and Evans’ salary as the highest paid man. Meanwhile, only 10 of the broadcaster’s top earners are people of colour. Clearly there is a lot of work to do for the BBC to fix its wage gap issues.
Compared to this, though, they all look a steal:
But one figure really does stand out. Alan Shearer’s £450,000 a year.
To put this into context, this is over double what Clare Balding – an outrageously talented broadcaster who can claim to be an expert in a vast array of sports – takes home.
Let’s face it, Alan Shearer is not exactly a groundbreaking pundit. Since 2006 we’ve had to put up with clichés, fence-sitting, describing what any fan can see with their own eyes, and invaluable insight such as ‘he’ll be disappointed to miss that’ (when a striker misses) and ‘he’ll be pleased to score that’ (when a striker scores). It’s got so bad that there’s even a Twitter account – @howalanseesit – which, until last year, fastidiously documented every ridiculously obvious Shearer comment.
While Lineker is almost unrecognisable from his early, nervous days on MOTD, having clearly worked hard at his craft, Shearer constantly gives the impression that he’s turned up for work five minutes before the broadcast starts. Countless times we’ve seen him incredulous over ‘unknown’ and ‘untried’ foreign players arriving who, with two minutes’ research on Google, he could have discovered had already won titles and leagues (he famously said that nobody knew much about Hatem Ben Arfa when he joined Newcastle, despite the fact that he was a French international). He writes in other publications trotting out the same old nonsense about foreign managers and England with absolutely zero evidence to back up his claims.
What’s frustrating is that, on the rare occasions that Shearer has cared enough to lose his rag, he suddenly transforms into someone well worth watching – for example, his rant when England lost to Germany in the 2010 World Cup and when Newcastle were on the road to relegation in 2016.
But these occasions are all too few.
While it is true that he has improved – Football365 wrote, pretty accurately in 2015, “he has begun to make more of an effort over the last couple of years. He genuinely loves exciting, explosive football and he now makes an effort to communicate that to viewers. His tactical analysis has progressed from a reading age of about four to a sort of middle school level. Baby steps and that” – is this really enough for £450,000 a year?
Especially when there are plenty of much lower-paid, much more hard-working, more charismatic experts plying their trade on Radio 5 and elsewhere in the journalistic world of football. Especially when the likes of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher (who, admittedly, almost certainly earn more money over on Sky) have rewritten the rules of the level of insight that we can expect from ex-pros.
There’s still an overriding feeling that he rocks up, says the obvious and then pops off home to get back to the far more important matter of playing golf.
Compare that with Balding’s clear expertise and it doesn’t really feel good enough, does it?