There’s still so much at stake on the final day of an enthralling Premier League season and, for many top-flight players, there’s also the chance to sign off for the summer by banking some extra cash, too.
Typically there are two types of bonuses in football: individual agreements written into player or manager contracts, and collective team agreements that have to be arranged before the start of the season.
Some clubs reward their players for simply staying in the Premier League; others like Chelsea demand silverware. The benefits of playing Champions League football is obvious, given the extra cash on offer for those players whose sides secure a top-four spot. Southampton’s collective bonus structure is quite complicated, with money accumulated week by week depending on the club’s league position at the time, while Watford’s is more clear-cut: no more Premier League football, no extra money.
The Athletic’s Premier League club writers run through what their side might expect (or not) in a bumper June pay packet…
Arsenal’s bonuses include pay-outs for lifting a trophy or qualifying for Europe, and the players will still be hoping that circumstances conspire on the final day of the Premier League season to grant them their Champions League bonuses.
Those who have played in a high proportion of league matches will qualify for a significant one-off payment if Arsenal can sneak into the top four. Unlikely as that now may seem, it would be particularly sweet for those who were at the club in 2020 and had to take a pay cut owing to the club’s failure to make the Champions League.
Arsenal’s players will be rewarded for helping the club return to Europe via the Europa League, but not to the same extent. The bonus scheme is part of a broader trend at Arsenal towards incentivised contracts, informed by performance. This helps to offer the club protection against the damage to revenue caused by failing to make the Champions League or secure European football.
Win bonuses of a substantial six-figure sum are only paid out if Aston Villa finish in 14th place or higher.
It was decided that staying in the Premier League was not enough to warrant an additional end-of-season payment so a structured system was put in place instead.
The size of the bonus increases the higher Villa finish in the table, and is understood to be reduced accordingly depending on the number of games each individual has featured in.
Villa have not finished in the top half of the Premier League for over a decade so they used the bonus scheme as a further incentive to motivate the players.
When Brentford won the Championship play-off final last year, they handed out £12 million in bonuses, which was split between players, coaches and backroom staff in recognition of their historic achievement in returning to the top flight for the first time since 1947.
The first-team squad are in line for another generous pay-out after avoiding relegation this season.
Brentford also set individual players, especially the midfielders and forwards, very specific performance-based targets and they will be rewarded if they hit them.
With a top-half finish still possible, Brentford’s owner Matthew Benham may yet decide to thank the players and his staff with extra cash to celebrate what has truly been a historic campaign.
A collective bonus system for the Premier League has been in place at Brighton since they were promoted from the Championship in 2017.
It is essentially funded by the meritocracy that exists in the league (just over £2 million in extra prize money is awarded for every place higher that the team finishes).
This has become especially relevant at Brighton in the climax to the current campaign. After ending up in the bottom six in each of the four completed seasons so far, they can finish in the top 10 this time — and the players will get a share of that bigger prize money pot.
Burnley’s bonus agreement has been fairly consistent in the Premier League and the club believe it is a simple but competitive model which retains focus among the players and constantly encourages competition for places.
The players have a pool of money to share, with the primary target of staying in the top flight. The overall amount will be increased depending on how high the team finishes in the league and it is split based on appearances, minutes and starts made by the individual. The more a player contributes throughout the season, the larger slice of the pie they will get, with most involved earning six-figure fees. Players may also have individual bonuses in their own contracts.
If Burnley go down, players and staff will face a significant wage cut in line with the careful financial management plan deployed by the previous ownership in the event of relegation.
Thomas Tuchel’s players do not have an extra financial incentive to end the season on a high.
While individual contracts carry their own bonus scheme for various targets being met, there is no special pot being shared out for their final Premier League position.
As in previous years, securing a top-four finish and qualifying for the Champions League is not enough to be rewarded with more cash for the squad to split. It is also thought that nothing special was put in place for lifting the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup this season.
Last year the players and staff all received a cut of several million pounds for winning the Champions League, while the failure to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final cost Chelsea personnel around £1 million.
Crystal Palace’s season may appear to have little left riding on it from an outsider’s perspective.
But if Patrick Vieira’s winning mentality instilled in this team is not sufficient to motivate them to record a top-10 finish, then a substantial increase in the bonuses they will receive for doing so ought to concentrate minds.
Bonuses are paid out to the squad on a pro-rata basis depending on final league standings, but it is thought they will earn significantly more should they finish in the top half of the table.
Everton’s disastrous season is likely to hit the players in their wallets when it comes to bonus earnings.
It is thought they are part of a general club bonus scheme, based predominantly on league placing, and with that in mind a top-flight finish of 16th or 17th place means less financial reward than in recent seasons.
Given the club’s rather loftier ambitions of qualifying for Europe at the start of the campaign, it is not believed that players and staff will qualify for additional bonuses purely for avoiding relegation, which they did with victory over Crystal Palace on Thursday night.
Patrick Boyland and Greg O’Keeffe
After they were promoted from the Championship, Leeds decided to base their bonus structure on league position and wins achieved, rather than just offering a simple lump sum for staying up. This incentivised everyone to finish as high up the table as possible and not just aim for 17th. Because of that, the pay-outs were very generous last season, helped by 18 victories and a final position of ninth.
In essence, the bonuses accrued over the course of the campaign. The more minutes a player amassed, therefore, the more they received at the end of it — almost a pro-rata arrangement. The higher up the table the club climbed, the more wins were worth to the squad financially. But the makeweight in the agreement was that wins achieved in a lower league position would be worth considerably less, and sometimes nothing in terms of bonus payments.
Clearly, this season, Leeds have spent a lot of time near the foot of the table so the rewards will be nothing like as big if they stay up.
At Leicester there is a team bonus, which is a collective one and is based on the club’s performance in the table and progress in the cup competitions, such as Europa Conference League, Europa League or Champions League qualification and winning the title.
The thought of being crowned Premier League champions seemed so ridiculous before they achieved the impossible in 2016 that there were no title bonuses written into the players’ deals. To make up for that, each of them was given a £100,000 BMW i8. Some drove them, like Christian Fuchs, while others sold them.
On top of the collective bonus, every player has an individual one based on their own personal performances — goals, assists, appearances. In some cases, the individual bonus can supersede the team one but it depends on each contract as every player’s is different.
All the Liverpool players have highly incentivised contracts with bonuses linked to on-field achievements.
When they won the Premier League title in 2020 they shared around £4 million between them. The amount each player received was worked out based on league appearances made over the course of that season.
The bonus pot for winning the Champions League 12 months earlier was around £7 million.
With Liverpool still fighting for both the domestic title and European glory, they can hope for similar amounts in bonuses this summer.
It usually flies under the radar but Pep Guardiola always celebrates the day that City are guaranteed Champions League football. That’s for sporting reasons — the consistency of “always being there” as he puts it — but it’s a nice little earner for the players too.
The size of City’s bonuses vary from player to player, of course, but in one of the bigger contracts over the years the bonus for Champions League qualification was £1.25-£1.5 million. Winning the competition would have landed that player an extra £1 million. The bonus for winning the Premier League in this particular contract was a mere £700,000, barely worth getting out of bed.
This contract entitled the winner to £300,000 for the FA Cup and Europa League and £75,000 for the Carabao Cup, the European Super Cup and the World Club Cup. Bonuses for the Ballon d’Or, PFA Team of the Year and PFA Player of the Year can also be included.
Manchester United players are in line for a 25 per cent reduction on salaries for their failure to qualify for the Champions League. Former executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and outgoing head of negotiations Matt Judge implemented the policy, which aims to counteract the drop in revenue suffered by the club, so it will be interesting to see if the same clause continues with both executives gone.
Some player agents were able to agree lower wage cuts, depending on their status at the time of signing contracts. It is believed Paul Pogba is the only United player to avoid any drop in earnings, a signal of Mino Raiola’s leverage when United signed the French international in 2016 for a world record £89 million. Pogba continued to take home £290,000 per week when United played in the Europa League.
United have bonuses for winning trophies but they were not close to any this season; a fifth year in a row without silverware.
With bonus agreements having to be arranged before the season began, Newcastle’s structure remains a remnant of the Mike Ashley era.
Throughout the previous owner’s tenure, there were regular disagreements over how they should work — including following promotion in 2010, when Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and the other senior players refused to sign off on the proposal before the start of the season.
In 2018, meanwhile, the players declared a self-imposed media ban, so unhappy were they with the proposals. That came following an agreement in 2017-18, when Ashley had promised the players a combined £20 million bonus if they won the FA Cup — a competition they had rarely shown any desire to progress in previously.
This year, the framework of the end-of-season bonus structure is similar to how it has been in most seasons under Ashley: Newcastle players receive a payment for finishing 17th or above, and it increases for every position higher in the table. It rises substantially if Newcastle end the campaign in the top 10.
Although a portion of the bonus scheme operates on a sliding scale, with the number of appearances taken into account, every player is due a cut, which makes up the majority of the payment. The bonus is usually added to Newcastle players’ June pay packet.
Eddie Howe and his staff, meanwhile, are also due a significant bonus for keeping Newcastle in the Premier League. The head coach was appointed in November, post-takeover, and his primary job was to avoid relegation, something he has achieved with time to spare.
Norwich’s primary bonus structure this season was based on achieving survival in the Premier League. Anything above 18th place. It was a significant amount across the entire club, too: a pot worth in excess of £10 million with all employees set to benefit.
Norwich’s players and coaching staff were to be the main beneficiaries. Dean Smith, Craig Shakespeare and Liam Bramley inherited Daniel Farke’s squad. They also inherited the same carrot for achieving survival.
Of course, they did not achieve that so Norwich’s players and football staff are facing a significant cut in their salaries, ranging from 40 to 60 per cent. Every contract includes a Premier League and Championship salary level when they are signed.
The only exception is Teemu Pukki, whose contract included a clause that has seen the club take up its 12-month option — but in doing so must pay the final year at his top-flight salary, well in excess of £50,000 per week.
Next season Norwich’s bonus system will be heavily incentivised again towards earning Championship promotion.
Southampton players are paid a bonus for the position they finish the season in. They are not, for example, given a lump sum if they avoid relegation. Captain James Ward-Prowse agrees to a structure with the club at the start of every season, which is then submitted to the Premier League.
It is quite complex in that the players receive a certain amount of money per point they earn. However, it goes further than that. If Southampton are first or fourth in the Premier League on a Monday after a weekend of fixtures, they would get, let’s say, £2,000 per point. That then decreases as they go further down the table. So, if Southampton are 14th on a Monday, they may only get £1,000 per point.
Players will then receive a share of the total figure once the season ends, but their share of the total sum will differ as how many games they have played throughout the season is taken into account. Ward-Prowse, for example, is likely to receive a bigger cut than Moussa Djenepo.
Tottenham’s players will share a bonus pot of around £3.5 million if they qualify for the Champions League.
Part of that will come from a set amount of £1.5 million if they finish third or £1 million for fourth place, with the rest made up of bonuses throughout the season based on the results of individual games. The pot will be split between the players based on how many games they have played in.
Some players also have separate Champions League qualification bonuses written into their contracts, with other bonuses also included for achievements like winning trophies. Spurs are known for offering heavily incentivised contracts to their players.
Head coach Antonio Conte is also expected to pick up a bonus of around £2 million if he can lead the team into the Champions League.
Watford’s bonus structure outside of individual players’ add-ons — such as Ismaila Sarr’s deal, as outlined here — is based on points gained per season. But there is a catch. The bonus is only paid out if the club avoid relegation. So this season, no bonus.
There have been issues with bonus payments in the recent past at Vicarage Road. At the end of the 2018-19 season, Watford’s league form faded (even if they still achieved their best Premier League finish of 11th) after reaching the FA Cup final which they then lost 6-0 to Manchester City. It led to bonuses — which the club insist were “discretionary” — not being honoured.
Watford started the following season with four straight defeats, sacked three head coaches and were relegated.
David Moyes’ squad would have shared between £8-£10 million in bonuses had they qualified for the Champions League (by finishing in the top four or winning the Europa League).
But, despite missing out, it is believed the players will still share a similar sum for securing European football next season.
No players have individual bonuses in their deals.
Wolves have had a fairly consistent bonus structure across their four seasons in the Premier League since promotion in 2018, with bonuses for reaching the top 10, qualifying for the Europa League and also for reaching the Champions League.
In 2019 it’s believed they secured £12 million as a squad — around £650,000 each — after surprisingly qualifying for Europe.
This season, with Bruno Lage’s squad having failed to qualify for Europe on the back of a run of eight defeats in 12 matches, they will now hope to secure a top-10 finish on the final weekend of the season.
(Graphic: Sam Richardson for The Athletic)
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Premier League bonuses: Conte’s £2m for top four and 25% wage cut for Man United squad
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