John Varley, chief executive of Barclays, reckons he runs a Premiership club and his first team deserve wages comparable with those of footballers. He said: 'The football analogy certainly goes some way. There is no higher priority than to ensure we field the very best people. That is exactly the same as a football manager if they are going to win. Our obligation is to ensure we pay appropriately."
I'll believe that when I see FX dealers transferred for 8-figure sums or bedrooms full of BarCap merchandise. Fancy a Brontos mug? There are plenty in Italy.
The argument for higher pay is similar not just to footballers but also to "key talent" at the BBC. The good news there is that ITV has just lost £125 million, and worse still, the TV advertising market is forecast to fall from £3.5 billion to £2.6 billion, so the idea that the BBC has to pay high salaries in order to be competitive is clearly tosh.
ITV is losing profits to independent producers (and format holders) like Simon Cowell who have figured that entertainment shows are more profitable if the entertainment is provided by amateurs and the only paid performers are talking heads whose main talent is knowing which way up to hold a mic.
But back to bankers. The theory behind bonuses is that they align the interests of bankers and owners by rewarding the bankers for producing profits for the owners. But that isn't the way it is working at the moment, where it seems that dividends are paid to shareholders for providing the capital to allow bankers to earn bonuses.
Bonuses were generally larger than the net income of banks in the last reporting period. Morgan Stanley earned $1.7 billion and paid $4.475 billion in bonuses. Goldman Sachs made $2.3 billion and paid $4.8 billion in bonuses. JP Morgan Chase earned $5.6 billion and paid $8.69 billion in bonuses.
And these days, banks don't even have to make a profit to pay bonuses: Citigroup paid $5.33 billion and Merrill Lynch paid $3.6 billion in bonuses even though they both lost more than $27 billion.
It seems that bankers are becoming like footballers only in the respect that the players are demanding more and more of the revenue until there are no profits left for the owners.