Football is about as unique a business as you could ever find.
That might not exactly be the boldest statement to make, but there is surely little arguing with it.
A trawl through salary statistics from across the business world just underlines it.
The major difference with what you might call ‘real world’ pay cheques and those in the football bubble is that the supposed worthiness of the latter is often judged from the outside by the heart rather than the head.
The Premier League is fairly big business, that goes almost without saying, but it’s not exactly massive for all but the giants of the game when compared to the rest of the big business universe.
It is a high pressure industry with rewards and spoils for those who are successful, while those who are beset by relegation suffer reverse fortunes.
As such, there is always a tendency to say of anybody who is successful ‘he’s worth every penny’.
That will probably be the reaction of most fans after the latest set of accounts for Saints’ parent company, DWMSL 613 Ltd, revealed that the highest paid director for the year to June 30, 2013, earned more than £1.96m. The accounts show the only director for that period was Nicola Cortese.
In some respects that reaction is hard to argue with. Saints’ turnover leapt by 213 per cent when they were promoted to the Premier League.
For any business that is a big step forward, and you would expect the leader of the company – and, make no mistake, Cortese really did drive every aspect at St Mary’s – to be rewarded.
That logic does stand up to a degree.
It’s just the figures involved that seem so vast in football.
Saints may be earning good money now, but their revenue for the year was £71.8m. It’s great for the club given their recent past of course, but in comparison it’s hardly a monster business. They had a loss of £7.1m.
When you compare it to Marc Bolland, the boss of Marks and Spencer – a company who are a genuine retail giant – you discover his salary for a similar period was only about £200,000 less than Cortese’s. M&S profits had sunk to a mere £564m.
Research by the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR said the 2012 average UK chief executive salary was £215,879.
The average director’s salary for a company with a turnover up to £249m – only Manchester United broke that in the period among Premier League clubs – was £150,876.
We paid public servants like the Prime Minister less in a year than Cortese, and countless others in the world of football, earned in a month.
Nobody is saying that Cortese is alone in this, or he did anything wrong. There is absolutely no implication of that.
Rather, it underlines how different football is.
His near £37,800 a week wage was probably more than many of the Saints squad were earning.
When you look around the rest of the Premier League, where the players earn such vast amounts, the figures for the previous year, 2011/12, revealed the big clubs did pay their top executives in a similar manner.
David Gill at Manchester United was reported to have got £2.6m, Daniel Levy at Tottenham £2.2m and Arsenal’s Ivan Gazidis £2.05m.
Away from those giants with big turnovers, it was a little more modest with only a few clubs breaking the seven-figure marker.
The likes of Swansea (£200,000), Aston Villa (£256,000), Newcastle (£266,000), Stoke (£517,000) were much lower.
It may well be different for 2012/13, time will fully reveal that.
What’s for sure is that football is a business still, but a very unique one.