We are used to footballing bodies issuing players with punishments, often those that are monetary in nature. Whether it is for breaking betting rules, improper conduct or even being found guilty of racial abuse, there are a range of reasons why governing bodies like the FA might hit a player with a fine. Clubs themselves though also have the power to hit their own players with a financial penalty for wrongdoing. Often the sums involved can be quite large too as the following list will show, at least for those of us not earning tens of thousands of pounds each week.
How Much Can A Club Fine A Player?
Before we dive into things though, it is worth covering the maximum amount a club is allowed to fine a player. Imagine a player had done something wrong, clubs cannot simply pick a number out of thin air and demand the player coughs up the cash. Imagine if a goalkeeper was consistently late for training one week so their club hits them with a fine worth 10 weeks of wages. This would simply not be allowed to happen as it would be deemed grossly excessive. Even if clubs did have complete authority though, players would very quickly be put off joining a club that was so heavy-handed when it came to administering punishments.
Usually when a club issues a fine it will relate to a specific number of weeks’ wages. Fixed amounts are only typically used when smaller numbers are involved (small in relation to football players’ wages that is). During his stint in charge at Chelsea for instance, boss Frank Lampard would fine players £500 for every minute a player was late to a team meeting or £1,000 if their phone audibly rang during the meeting. He would also fine players a much heftier £20,000 if they were late for training, although for every senior Chelsea player this would most likely have been just a few days’ pay at most.
It is more normal to see, at least in more serious offences, players being hit with a fine relating to their weekly salary. As standard, a one or two week fine is normal and clubs are practically free to issue these when there has been any clear wrongdoing. The offence does not have to be too great in the grand scheme of things either, even one missed training session (without explanation) would attract such a fine, for example. Two weeks is generally the maximum clubs can get away with in most instances though as this is the maximum for standard player contracts.
So, although two weeks is usually the limit, in more egregious cases, clubs will gain approval to exceed this. Scottish side St Johnstone, for instance, fined two players four weeks’ wages after they ended up fighting one another on the pitch during their side’s 1-0 defeat to Hamilton. Because fines are so often linked to salaries, punishments from earlier decades seem quite light as wages were much lower. This also means most of the biggest fines have fallen in more recent years.
The Largest Player Fines
Now that we know how these player fines work, lets see which footballers have been handed the biggest fines by their clubs. As mentioned above, player wages, especially at the top level, have risen significantly in recent years meaning most of these huge fines have been handed out in the past decade or so.
Lee Bowyer, Newcastle (2004/05)
Fine Amount – £200,000 (six weeks’ wages)
Reason – Fighting with teammate during match
Earlier on we mentioned that two St Johnstone players ended up fighting one another on the pitch but they were not the first teammates to end up in this situation in a top-level match. Many football fans, particularly Newcastle supporters, will still vividly remember another fight 12 years earlier in which Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer ended up trading blows.
Just prior to this the Toon Army had conceded another goal meaning they trailed Aston Villa by three goals in front of their own fans. None of their players was in the best of mood as a result but Lee Bowyer was feeling particularly irritable. He initially decided to take his anger out on Keiron Dyer, asking him, not very politely, why he had refused to pass him the ball. Dyer, not in the mood to place nice either, basically responded with something along the lines of “it’s because you are not very good” (the actual words spoken were rather more foul-mouthed).
The short-fused Bowyer did not take kindly to this and approached Dyer before throwing several punches. Dyer responded with one himself in an act of self-defence before they were separated. No physical damage was done at the time, other than to Bowyer’s shirt, but the real consequences came afterwards. As Dyer was viewed more as the victim of the situation, his punishment was nothing more than a standard three-match ban for his red card. Bowyer on the other hand was fined six weeks’ wages by his club, as well as another £30,000 on top by the FA. It was a costly lack of self-control from the midfielder but it could have been a lot worse as Newcastle chairman at the time Freddy Shepherd said he had considered sacking the midfielder.
Kurt Zouma, West Ham (2021/22)
Fine Amount – £250,000 (two weeks’ wages)
Reason – Abusing a pet cat
Early in 2022, footage emerged of Kurt Zouma slapping his pet cat and kicking it across his house. For reasons that are not perfectly clear, Kurt’s brother, non-league footballer Yoan Zouma, recorded the footage and uploaded it to Snapchat, after which it rapidly spread. Needless to say, the public did not react well to seeing this animal abuse, nor were the RSPCA too happy, and many were quick to condemn his actions. Manager David Moyes seemed to take a much more lenient stance though and was happy enough to select Zouma for a match against Watford the following day.
With it looking like Zouma might get away scot-free, public anger rose and there were larger calls for the club to take action. The following day West Ham did so, handing the central defender the largest fine they could, worth £250,000. Certain reports claimed this caused an issue in the West Ham dressing room, not because they disagreed with the punishment but because they had no idea the Frenchman was on £125,000 a week. In addition to the fine, Moyes did drop Zouma for the following match against Leicester but this ended up being the only match he missed out on.
Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea (2021/22)
Fine Amount – £325,000 (two weeks’ wages)
Reason – Criticising his club in a TV interview
Romelu Lukaku has never been a player to shy away from letting the world know how he feels during interviews. In June 2017, while an Everton player, he said that staying at the club was ‘not really an option’; and later, while at Manchester United, he claimed that he hoped a transfer to Italy would materialise. There are several more examples we could give but the one that landed him in the hottest water was when talking to Italian TV in December 2021. His blindsided club, Chelsea, had no idea this interview had taken place before the footage went out to the world. It was not a pleasant surprise either with the Belgian directing some clear criticism towards manager Thomas Tuchel.
When asked about his thoughts on the interview soon after, Tuchel did not approve, claiming the comments had upset the calm and focus at the club. Perhaps regretting his decision, Lukaku did something of a U-turn and delivered a rather grovelling apology on Chelsea TV a few days later. This alone was not sufficient though to appease his highly peeved-off club who subsequently fined the striker two weeks’ wages. As extra punishment, the Belgian was left out of the team for when Liverpool visited Stamford Bridge but he did return to the starting line-up three days later.
Arda Turan, Istanbul Basaksehir (2018/19)
Fine Amount – £350,000 (approx 2.5 weeks’ wages)
Reason – Firearms offence
All the examples provided on the list have something to do with a player getting into trouble for reasons at least related to football. Arda Turan is the exception though as his 2.5m Turkish Lira fine came after he fired a gun in a hospital. Why on earth would anyone do that we hear you ask? Well, it all started when Turan ended up in a dispute at a nightclub with Berkay Sahin, a fairly well-known Turkish singer. The dispute turned physical and left Sahin with a broken nose, for which he received treatment at a nearby hospital.
That appeared to be the end of it until Turan appeared at the same hospital, begging for forgiveness. Rather than follow the standard apology protocol though the midfielder brought a gun, rather than some chocolates, along with him which he later fired into the floor. Nobody was hit by the bullet but the then 32 year old was slapped with a suspended sentence for ‘firing a gun to cause panic, illegal possession of weapons and intentional injury’. Although he was only on loan at Istanbul Basaksehir from Barcelona at the time, the Turkish club still had the power to issue him a hefty fine which they duly did.
Carlos Tevez, Manchester City (2011/12)
Fine Amount – £400,000 (two weeks’ wages)
Reason – Refusal to play
Carlos Tevez was extremely well paid during his time at Manchester City, enjoying a weekly salary of £200,000. He did not leave the club as rich as he could have done though thanks to fines and a period of unpaid salary. The first fine was handed to him when he allegedly outrighted refused to play a Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich. So angry was Roberto Mancini by the incident that he claimed in a post-match conference that he would never play the striker again. The club were equally as furious and originally attempted to dock Tevez four weeks’ pay following an internal inquiry.
The Professional Footballer’s Association refused to back this though, believing it was excessive for a player they believed had simply (momentarily) refused to warm up for one match. This is important because the PFA have to ratify any fines that exceed the standard two weeks’ wages limit for players in England and Wales. They did this for the Lee Bowyer case mentioned earlier but here they believed City had reacted too strongly given that Tevez had not outright refused to play, in their opinion. Man City decided not to contest the decision although there was no route of appeal to them in any case, this is an option only available to the player.
Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur (2021/22)
Fine Amount – £400,000 (two weeks’ wages)
Reason – Failure to return to training
Up until the summer of 2021, Harry Kane had always come across as the consummate professional. Captain of England, a clean off-field record and never one to give any controversial answers in press conferences, he was exactly the sort of player you loved to have in your team. Despite his years of professionalism though, Kane decided to push this aside as he chased a move away from his boyhood club to league champions Manchester City. His first move was to carry out a long interview with Gary Neville in which he dropped some not very subtle hints that he wanted a transfer to a club that wins more trophies.
This was at the very start of the summer and there were strong rumours that Man City, seeking a Sergio Aguero replacement, would make a bid. Various reports suggested a formal bid was made, worth around £100m, but this was deemed much too low for Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. With City seemingly refusing to go any higher, in a bid to force a move along, Kane failed to show up for training, instead extending his stay in Florida. His unauthorised absence, which proved to be in vain, led to him being fined two weeks’ salary and saw him miss the opening league match of the season. The 28 year old also managed to lose a lot of respect among the Spurs faithful, although this was largely regained when he started banging in the goals again.
Kolo Toure, Manchester City (2010/11)
Fine Amount – £720,000 (six weeks’ wages)
Reason – Failed drugs test
Kolo Toure, a man who once pretended to be a car salesman when having a secret affair with a model, had his fair share of ups and downs during his career. One of his low points came at the start of March 2011 as the FA handed the central defender a six-month footballing ban for failing a drugs test. This not only included a ban from playing in any matches but also prevented him from training with his club. He was able to return to returning to the training ground after just over five months though so that he could regain some fitness by the time the playing ban expired.
Although this seems like quite a severe punishment at first, three of the months of the ban were served over summer break. Overall, Toure was relieved that the punishment was not greater as the FA had the power to issue a ban for as long as two years. They opted for a more lenient punishment though because they accepted that the 29 year old had ‘not intended to enhance sporting performance’ by taking some of his wife’s slimming pills, unaware they contained the banned substance Bendroflumethiazide. In addition to his ban, Man City also fined him six weeks’ salary for his complacent approach to pills, but Toure duly accepted this and did not kick up the slightest fuss.
Carlos Tevez, Manchester City (2011/12)
Fine Amount – £1,200,000 (six weeks’ wages)
Reason – Going on strike
Although the refusing to play incident in Munich featuring Carlos Tevez did turn a little ugly, it was nothing that a heartfelt apology could not have fixed. The Argentine opted not to go down the reconciliatory route though and instead dug himself a much deeper hole. During an international break, the forward was given explicit instructions to stay in Manchester and work on his fitness. Instead, Tevez opted to fly back home. The response from his camp was that they had failed to hear from boss Roberto Mancini and they were unaware of instructions to stay in Manchester. This sparked the start of a messy fight between Tevez and his club, with the player effectively going on strike. It was a lengthy strike in the end too as the 28 year old ended up staying in South America for over three months.
This was such a serious case of gross misconduct that City were not told they had to reduce their punishment on this occasion. They slapped the striker with a £1.2m fine and this was in addition to not paying his wages while he resided in Argentina. Quite incredibly though, the player and club did manage to resolve their differences soon after. Upon arriving back in England, the Argentine delivered an apology and dropped his appeal against the fine. The manager at the time, Roberto Mancini, also appeared keen to move on and made it clear the striker was available for section again. On 21 March, nearly six months after the evening in Munich, Tevez made his reappearance. He went on to feature several more times during the remainder of the season and made 34 league appearances for the Citizens the following year.