How do Sports Share the Wealth?

For a lot of kids, the dream is to become a professional athlete. Whether it may lifting the Champions League Trophy or winning an olympic gold medal.

With hard work and dedication some achieve their goals. But with all forms of life there are levels in which you progress. As a kid growing up you may be fixated on winning the Champions League Trophy but that is the pinnacle of that Sport. That is as high as you can progress. There are many levels of Football beneath that. At the top level of sport there is fame and wealth, but there are so many levels beneath that.

That is what we’re going to look at. How do sports share their wealth to the lower levels of professional sport. Not only should the lower levels of professional sport be supported to produce more talent but also, you have people who have dedicated their lives to sport, some know nothing else, are they being treated fairly?

For now we are going to look at some of the main sports in the UK; Football, Cricket and Tennis. For now we are just looking at male sport. We will review Women’s sport another day.



Football is one of the most popular sports in the world. Because of the large amount of interest football has some of the most highly paid sports stars in the world. In 2016 the average wage of a premier league player was £2.4 million a year.

During the 2014 – 15 season the average salaries for the rest of the football league looked like this:



League One


League Two


Players all the way down the football league system are making a decent living.

There are roughly 4000 members of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA). To qualify for a PFA membership you must have either a full contract or scholarship playing at Conference National Level or higher.

Essentially 4000 people fall into the pay brackets above. 4000 professional footballers in England alone. This is a higher level of professional athletes than any other sport in the UK.

It’s not just Football league players who a make money playing football. Non-league teams such as Harrogate and Salford have recently announced their plans to go full time. Now you don’t have to play in the football league to be classed as a full time footballer.

This increases that number of 4000 professional Footballers in England from the PFA.



Cricket is fairly unique with the way it sets up it’s professional structure in the UK. Professional teams are counties e.g Yorkshire and Lancashire.

This immediately reduces the number of teams at the highest level of non international cricket.

The average salary for a first team county player is £50,000. This is considerably less than the top flight of English football.

Unlike most sports, to be a high earning cricketer in England you have to have to be a successful international players. For regular England players the ECB offer a Central Contract.

The Contract is split into both Red Ball and White Ball contracts:


Red & White Ball

Red Ball Only White Ball Only

Moeen Ali

James Anderson

Jake Ball

Jonny Bairstow

Stuart Broad

Jos Butler

Joe Root

Alastair Cook

Alex Hales

Ben Stokes

Eoin Morgan

Chris Woakes

Liam Plunkett

Adil Rashid

Jason Roy

David Willey

Mark Wood

For players who are heavily involved with both Test, ODI and T20 the salary is around £1 million for the year.

In the UK there are roughly 400 full time professional cricketers. This is considerably less than football.

It’s very rare that you will find a full time cricket player below county standard.

It has been well reported the issues that county cricket has been facing regarding spectators. Would investing less money in the England side and more money below the county structure, increase standard? And make county cricket more entertaining for spectators?


Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with the trophy during the ceremony after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their men's singles final match to win the French Open Tennis tournament in Paris

Tennis is a lot more cut throat than team sports. The only way you can earn prize money as a professional player is by winning matches.

The largest amount of prize money is made from the Grand Slams. The Prize Money for both the Men’s and Ladies singles title at Wimbledon 2017 was £2,200,000. A first round knockout would earn you £35,000.

Unlike Football and Cricket you don’t have a contract with a club. Therefore you have to essentially fund your own career. That’s everything from flights and accommodation to paying your coaches and physios. The best players in the world can earn themselves sponsorships for equipment.

Depending on rankings, tournaments are split into 7 categories:

Event Category

Number of Events per Year

Total Event Prize Money (USD) (Singles)

Grand Slam



ATP World Tour Finals



ATP World Tour Masters 1000


$2,450,000 to 3,645,000

ATP World Tour 500 Series


$755,000 to 2,100,000

ATP World Tour 250 Series


$416,000 to 1,024,000

ATP Challenger Tour


$40,000 to 220,000

ITF Men’s Circuit


$15,000 and 25,000

Please bear in mind that these prize money figures are for the entire tournament, and will be split depending on where a player finishes. For example in a ITF Men’s Circuit event, winning a $15,000 singles title will net you $2,352.

From these figures you have to say tennis is brutal with how it distributes money. Some guys playing in these ITF events are ranked in the top 400 in the world.

If you were the 400th best football player in the world you would be expecting to earn more than $2,352. You also have to remember players have to pay for their flights and hotels. These tournaments are played all around the world, these prices add. Often players will be lucky to break even on trips to tournaments.

You seriously have to think how damaging this is to the sport. If the future of the game, rising stars are struggling to make a living, then some will just quit. These players should be able maintain a sustainable living.

Currently the UK top 25 players world rankings range from 3-950 in the world. Would the UK prosper if there was more opportunity to stay playing full-time?

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