Obviously, one major reason for this is the fact only a relatively small number of players actually make it onto the playing field, compared to say, the NFL, in which a huge pool of money has to be spread among many, many players. This was reported in a UK paper, so excuse the soccer focus in the article.
Premiership stars are 'poor men' of sport
Britain's pampered Premiership players, with their attendant WAGS and diamond-encrusted lifestyles, have long been regarded as the epitome of overpaid sports stars.
But a new study has shown that the likes of Chelsea's John Terry and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney are also-rans when compared to some of the world's richest sportsmen.
A review of global sports salaries by website Sporting Intelligence has found that the English Premier League comes only fourth in a list of the highest paid leagues in the world.
Only two Premier League clubs appear in the top 30 teams in world sport, ranked by average first team pay.
According to the report, which compares wages in the world's major sports leagues on a like-for-like basis for the first time, Chelsea are at number four and Manchester United are 14th.
The £1.46 million average annual salary of Premiership players is easily outstripped by the annual average of £2.62 million made by players in the US National Basketball Association (NBA) league.
The Dallas Mavericks, the NBA's highest paid team, are paid an average of £68,343 a week, compared to the average weekly Premiership salary of £28,230.
The second highest paid league in the world on a pro-rata basis is the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Players in its highest paid team, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, rake in an average of £57,833 a week during the six-week league season. The league's average salary, over a year, would work out at £2.5 million.
Third on the list are the stars of Major League Baseball, with an average annual salary of £1.82 million.
The New York Yankees enjoy average weekly earnings of £89,897, making them the envy of Chelsea who, despite being the Premier League's highest paid players, make an average of just £68,946 a week.
Nick Harris, editor of sportingintelligence.com and author of the report, said: "The findings will come as a surprise to anyone who thinks the Premier League is the best paid division in world sport because it's far from the case.
"I found wages higher than expected in cricket and Japanese baseball and lower in American football and parts of the Premier League."
When it comes to individual star salaries, the Premier League's players come some way down the international pay table.
Sporting Intelligence's report does not provide individual salary figures for Premier League footballers, in contrast to cricketers, basketball and baseball players where there is greater transparency.
However, Terry's annual salary is understood to be £7.8 million, before additional endorsement and merchandising payments.
Rooney is understood to earn £6.2 million a year in wages, though his merchandising deals have pushed his earnings far higher. He has an estimated fortune of £35 million.
That compares to Alex Rodriguez, of the New York Yankees, who earns around £20 million a year, making him the highest paid team sportsman in the world.
While Chelsea's first team players are the fourth highest paid in the world – with an annual average salary of £3.5 million – league champions Manchester United lie in lowly 14th, with first team players earning an average annual salary of £2.9 million.
The analysis is based on figures available by the end of 2009, from seasons that ended during that year, apart from the European football data, which is from summer 2008.
In the US, greater transparency over players' wage bills reveals to the nearest cent what David Beckham earned from LA Galaxy – $6,500,000.08 (£4.36 million) a year – though not what the eight cents is for.
The highest paid player in the IPL was Kevin Pietersen, of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who earned £1.04 million during the six week season.
The US National Football League (NFL) comes only sixth in the ranking of average pay per league, despite its huge crowd and advertising revenues.
The NFL has the biggest average crowds in the world – with 67,509 people per game, and annual revenues of almost £5 billion. But the average player pay is £22,506 a week, or £1.2 million a year.
Mr Harris said: "Our intention is to try to look at the whole picture, not just the parts that fit our preconceptions.
"One thing does remain true pretty much everywhere, with rare exceptions: the more cash you splash on wages, the greater the chance of winning."
More information on the Annual Review of Global Sports Salaries can be found at www.sportingintelligence.com, which includes a database updated whenever new figures become available.
Yankees on top in global pay review, Premier League in the shade
The New York Yankees are the best-paid team in global sport measured by average first-team wages, ahead of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and basketball’s Dallas Mavericks, according to the inaugural Annual Review of Global Sports Salaries (ARGSS), to be published this week by sportingintelligence.
The average first-team pay at the Yankees was £89,897 per player per week in 2009, or £4.7m per player last year, when the Yankees won the World Series – the biggest prize in baseball. Real Madrid’s stars earned £4.2m per year each in the period reviewed for Spanish football. The corresponding figures were £4.1m at Barca, £3.59m at Chelsea and £3.56m at the Mavericks.
Some of the key findings from our unique study are published in an exclusive extract in today’s Sunday Telegraph (online here and here). These articles coincide with the opening today of sportingintelligence’s global sports salaries database. That resource allows users to compare earnings in different sports, and gauge how pay affects performance.
The ARGSS, to be published on Friday, 2 April, collates the figures from the database, ranks the 211 teams currently monitored by average first-team pay, and also gives a league-by-league overview of the impact of money on performance in different leagues.
The report compares average first-team pay on a like-for-like basis for the first time at clubs in the world’s richest leagues in football (the Premier League), basketball (the NBA), baseball (MLB), cricket (the IPL), gridiron (the NFL) and ice-hockey (the NHL). It also includes Japan’s NPB baseball league as the highest paying sports league in Asia (the newcomer IPL aside), as well as Serie A, the world’s second-highest paying football league.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are included from Spain – as the only football clubs outside of English football that do or would make the top 30 payers list – while football leagues from the USA (MLS) and Scotland (SPL) are included as representatives of “small” leagues from the world’s most popular game.
The Premier League is the richest football league in the world but only two of its clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United, are among the top 30 high-paying teams. NBA and MLB teams dominate that elite, while even cricket’s IPL, the upstart league in world sport, has three teams in that bracket when we consider weekly pay.
All data is taken from seasons played or ending in 2009 except for European football clubs: “accounting lag” means there isn’t a full set of data for 2008-09 yet, so figures from summer 2008 are used for those clubs.
The figures for 2008-09 exist for most Premier League clubs and those are available in our database. The difference between the figures used in the ARGSS and the data for 2008-09 is moderate in most cases and wouldn’t alter most of the clubs’ rankings significantly if’d we had the full 2008-09 data set available now, and included it.
One exception is Manchester City’s wages, fueled by Abu Dhabi cash, which we calculate jumped from £1.4m per player per year in 2008 to £1.9m a year in 2008-09. However even this latest figure wouldn’t lift City any higher than sixth-highest payers in the Premier League for 2008-09 (from 10th in 2008), and wouldn’t put them inside the world’s top 50 teams (from No86), let alone inside the top 30.
As for the future; that’s a different matter. We can speculate that City’s wage bill will go through the roof in 2009-10 but as Manchester City themselves don’t even know that yet, nobody else can. Their bill could still alter significantly this season, for example, depending on performance bonuses (or not). As is explained in our methodology, guessing isn’t our game.
In America more than most places, there is a good degree of transparency about sportsmen’s earnings. Where we can identify with some certainty who a team’s top player was, and what he earned, we say so. Where we can’t, we don’t. Some official sources – the MLS players’ union and other unions, for example – tell us the exact figures for individuals down to the last cent, and we just “do the math”.
Equally, things do change, players do move, and therefore some of the named highest earners for the teams under review already play their sport elsewhere, a few months later. Teams’ pay goes up, and less often, down. The ARGSS by nature will reflect the past, albeit the recent past.
But we still believe it provides the best snapshot of the global sports salaries landscape, and our database, regularly updated, will provide fresh information as we process it.