Hearts in 50 objects: No.4 – 1903 wage book

The ledger which outlined the wage structure
The ledger which outlined the wage structure
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A book from the Tynecastle archives which details Hearts players’ contracts and wages from 1903.

Most Footballers then were paid little more than the average worker, not in vast sums like nowadays. The entries detail amounts such as £1.10 per week, £3 per week and £4 per week, with those amounts dropping during the close season when players were not in action.

These were effectively regarded as players’ contracts at the time, although the information is hand-written, presumably by the club secretary.

Contrast this approach with recent seasons and it becomes clear football is a very different animal nowadays. Under former owner Vladimir Romanov, Hearts paid some players £10,000 and £12,000 per week in a basic wage as the Russian lost all control of the finances at Tynecastle.

Hearts are now run in a more sensible fashion but top-earning players in Ian Cathro’s squad are on contract of between £3000 per week and £4000 per week before bonuses, tax and deductions.

Contract lengths can vary in the modern era from 30 days to four or even five years. Back in 1903, there was simply an agreement on how much you were to be paid each week. The amounts shown are in line with those earned by those in other professions, such as coal mining and shoe-making.