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Jordan Henderson and His Big Money Move: A Note of Caution?

Are there questions to be asked about the Liverpool captain’s wage offer?

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Jordan Henderson captain of Liverpool during a training session at AXA Training Centre on July 13, 2023 in Kirkby, England.
Jordan Henderson captain of Liverpool during a training session at AXA Training Centre on July 13, 2023 in Kirkby, England.
Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Much has been made of Jordan Henderson’s reported agreement to personal terms with Al-Ettifaq for an eye-watering weekly wage, though at present it seems the club is unwilling to let the midfielder go for the transfer fee Steven Gerrard’s Saudi Arabian club is willing to offer.

Those who support Henderson’s move will be happy to hear this, as the predominant positive view of the move surrounds its ability to free up funds for more signings.

Of course, the largest discussions around such a move — which would see a current Liverpool captain move to a non-top five league to gain an astronomical amount of wealth — deal with what such a move would mean for the sport more broadly and what a move to a country with harsh punishments for homosexuality would mean for a previously outspoken ally.

For those interested in these important discussions, The Anfield Wrap’s free podcast discussion with the Kop Outs, Liverpool FC’s queer fan group, is a good place to start.

Adam Crofton, the journalist at The Athletic who initially published Henderson’s strong advocation for and end to homophobia in football, has produced a detailed piece which puts Henderson’s statements and purported move in a broader sociopolitical context to consider what this all means for the sport. Crofton’s piece, especially, is essential reading, including and especially if you don’t get what the fuss is about, though it’s unfortunately behind The Athletic’s paywall.

Something that has been somewhat overlooked in all this discussion, though, is a warning sign that challenges even the practicalities that the most cynical supporter is drawn to: FIFPRO issued a warning in 2022 about signing for clubs in seven countries due to contract disputes — namely, lack of payment — and Saudi Arabia is on that list.

This warning emerged due to “systematic and widespread contractual violations in those countries,” violations which in Saudi Arabia amount to a recurring problem of non-payment in wages.

For those interested, a list of such disputes can be found on FIFA’s Decisions of the Dispute Resolution Chamber for Saudi Arabia, with published paperwork visible to the public, giving a sense of the nature of these disputes.

While there is no guarantee that Jordan Henderson would face such issues — his stature in the English game would provide him with an international platform to embarrass the club internationally should his wages go unpaid — such a pattern of labor disputes is worth noting nonetheless.

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