This week Forbes magazine published a list of the 100 highest paid athletes of 2012, which pretty much confirmed that theory. Let’s now analyse the results, focusing on which athletes and what sports are represented in this inventory of sportspeople with money to burn!
What struck me first was not the obscene amount of money that these professionals earn, rightly or wrongly, for basically doing a ‘job’ they love, but that of the top 100 highest paid athletes, only two of them were women.
Let’s not massage the facts and figures, but without a doubt there is still an irrefutable disparity in remuneration, both in wages and sponsorship, for successful women.
In a nutshell what I am saying is that in the last twelve months, of the top 100 highest paid athletes in the world, only two women had the earning power that has allowed them to dip their toes into the elite pool of sports highest grossing incomes.
Both these female athletes are tennis players.
Maria Sharapova (below right) was 26th overall ($27.9m) and China’s Li Na (right) was 81st ($18.4m). Sharapova, the current French Open champion has long had a coveted portfolio of sponsors that now includes Nike, Head, Samsung, Tag Heuer and Evian. Sales for the Maria Sharapova Collection, her line of products at Nike subsidiary Cole Haan, doubled last year.
Despite the increase in television coverage of women’s sports such as football, rugby and cricket, the gulf in earnings is huge. In the day-to-day workplace it is mainly men who occupy the boardrooms, salaries are disproportionate worldwide and sportswomen are likely to earn less than sportsmen for the foreseeable future, because the market rewards what it considers to be the ‘entertainers’ – men!
It’s the way of the world, but it really hits home when you view the Forbes list and see it for yourself, in black and white.
Turning to the list and identifying criteria among the top earners is actually not as blindingly obvious as one might have at first anticipated.
Athletes from 11 different sports qualified for the top 100. The world's highest-paid athlete is in jail. The guy in second place just lost a world title fight, and the man who held the distinction for a decade is now third.
Tiger Woods has lost his top position, which he had held since 2001, dropping to third place behind boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao (pictured right). Mayweather fought only two fights in the last year. He spent less than one hour in the ring to dispatch his two foes. His combined payday for the bouts: $85 million. Mayweather maximizes his earnings by acting as his own fight promoter through his company Mayweather Promotions. He collects all of the revenue from tickets, pay-per-view and sponsorships and covers the costs, including the purse for his opponent.
Mayweather is currently serving a three-month jail sentence in Las Vegas for domestic battery.
Pacquiao ranks second with earnings of $62 million. Over the past 12 months he fought Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley. The bouts netted him $56 million, despite Pacquiao losing his WBO welterweight title to Bradley just a few weeks ago. Pacquiao’s earnings also include money he gets from their broadcast in the Philippines. He also made an estimated $6 million over the past year outside the ring through endorsements. Pacquiao was only ranked 24th last year with $25 million, as he only had one fight during that period and Mayweather was even lower on the list.
Woods’ total earnings dropped $16 million from last year to $59.4 million and have been sliced in half since their peak in 2009. Woods last won a Major in 2008, but despite an increase of $2m in prize money won on the golf course in the last twelve months by Woods, it does not offset the loss of sponsors like Tag Heuer and Gillette. Woods career may be a bit rocky right now, but he was still the highest-paid golfer last year.
Despite a football-obsessed Europe, Americans earn far more than Europeans. European football clubs are developing a culture of selling off their clubs (and in some cases their history) to affluent businessmen from the former Eastern European block and Arab nations, perhaps indicating that those who make a living from kicking a circular leather ball were some of the world’s top earners. This is a fallacy.....because of the top 50 earners on the Forbes list, only four play football (soccer).
They are: David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney. David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy was 8th overall and the highest ranked soccer player at $46 million. Then followed Portugal and Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo 9th ($42.5m), Argentina and Barcelona magician Messi 11th ($39m) and England and Manchester United talisman Wayne Rooney 37th ($24.3m).
You are far more likely to strike gold if you play American football, basketball, golf or tennis.
Miami Heat star LeBron James (right) ranks 4th overall at $53 million, the highest of thirteen basketball players on the list.
Thirty American football players rank among the highest-paid athletes, which is more than any other single sport. Peyton Manning tops them at 10th overall. The Denver Broncos' new quarterback made $42.4 million during his last season with the Indianapolis Colts, even though he sat out the entire season while recovering from a neck injury.
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was top amongst baseball players and 18th overall with $33 million.
The figures for some sports can appear distorted and this is why? Using tennis as an example, Roger Federer 5th on the list overall ($52.7m), earned 50% more than Rafael Nadal 16th ($13.1m), and twice what Novak Djokovic 61st ($20.6m) made, despite having not won a Grand Slam tournament since early 2010.
Ultimately while the pecking order of success can change rapidly, earning power lags somewhat behind!
Here is a selection of other athletes not already mentioned, and how they have faired over the last twelve months:
#7 Phil Mickelson - Total earnings: $47.8 million
#20 Valentino Rossi - Total earnings: $30 million
#20 Michael Schumacher - Total earnings: $30 million
#24 Wladimir Klitschko - Total earnings: $28 million
#24 Lewis Hamilton - Total earnings: $28 million
#28 Tom Brady - Total earnings: $27.1 million
#48 Luke Donald - Total earnings: $22.2 million
#59 Kaká - Total earnings: $20.8 million
#63 Usain Bolt - Total earnings: $20.3 million
#65 Sergio Aguero - Total earnings: $20.1 million
#68 Fernando Torres - Total earnings: $19.6 million
#78 Sachin Tendulkar - Total earnings: $18.6 million
#88 John Terry - Total earnings: $17.5 million
#91 Rory McIlroy - Total earnings: $17.4 million
The earnings totals (in US dollars) are derived from salaries, bonuses, prize money, appearance fees, licensing and endorsement income in the 12 months from 1st May 2011 to 1st May 2012. Taxes or agents' fees are not factored into the figures.
Data source: Forbes
My twitter: @BeerFootyBirds