No athlete is overpaid!
That’s right, you read that correctly.
But in the event it so happens to be mistaken for a typo I’ll write it again.
No athlete is overpaid.
Not Wayne Rooney. Not Kobe Bryant. Not even Alex Rodriguez.
Don’t bother replacing your glasses or contacts either, or even asking for a larger font, because nothing short of John 3:16 and the old slogan for Buckley’s cough syrup could be truer than those four words.
And the same thinking that leads you to question said statement is precisely the reason we in this region have such major shortcomings in sport – West Indies cricket included of course.
The simple justification is that sport is a big business. A very big business.
Try billion worth of very big business, or the second biggest industry in the world behind the technological industry.
And that was a 2009 estimation.
Yet we fail to see sport for the big business that it is, somehow figuring that the men and women who are mostly responsible for generating the revenues of a multi-billion dollar industry should be paid salaries similar to those that don’t – i.e. me and you.
Again, this is just the basic argument, but one which seems pretty straightforward to me as I believe a man’s pay should be directly proportionate to the revenue he is responsible for attracting.
Of course I can just hear the complaints from marketing execs, salespeople, brokers and the likes but I did say that was only the simple justification.
The more elaborate (if only just) argument is this: we think an athlete’s pay is directly tied to his performance, and that isn’t necessarily the case.
Nope, sportsmen and women are compensated for their worth to whosoever decides to pay them.
And while worth is typically linked to performance, it’s not synonymous.
Let me give you an example to further explain.
The first overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, Andrew Wiggins, is currently signed to a two-year, $11.27 million contract. But when his trade from Cleveland to Minnesota was made official the Timberwolves reported the record sale of more than 300 full season-ticket packages – in a week.
With that in mind, can you honestly argue the franchise-changing talent is worth less than six million to Minnesota?
Forget that, if there was no rookie scale wage – which prevents him from making more than an average salary of seven million – the Wolves probably wouldn’t think twice about shelling out a calm $10m. Yet he hasn’t played a single minute of regular season NBA ball.
Take Kobe Bryant, a Hall-of-Famer on his last legs that’s being paid ($24.5 million on average) like the world’s best entering his prime. Now considering at age 36 with 18 years of NBA mileage on his body that he almost certainly won’t produce at an elite level you’d think he’s definitely overpaid right?
Guess again, because the Lakers’ reward for keeping a living legend in town for as long as possible was the right to sign a 20-year contract with Time Warner Cable in 2011 at a total worth of $4 billion.
I’ll save you the search for a calculator app and tell you that’s about $200 million a year for the Buss family in TV money alone – which has nothing to do with ticket sales, memorabilia, shared NBA revenue etc. Oh, just by the way all these figures are in U.S.
Still think Kobe’s making too much?
Maybe you’ll turn your focus on “mercenaries” like Chris Gayle, whose previous decision to spurn a WICB retainer contract valued at 000 a year was deemed as ungrateful, disloyal and disrespectful considering his returns in all forms of the game may be described at just above modest.
The only thing is that IPL franchises value his worth (there’s that damn word again) northward of $1 million for just a couple weeks of his time. And his performances, or better yet the promise of, have over one billion people wanting to tune in to the world’s most exciting cricket league.
The financial upshot? A ten-year, US$1.4 billion TV deal with Sony Entertainment Television and other separate sponsorships with Kingfisher Airlines (US$ 26.5 million), DLF Group ($50 million), Hero Honda ($22.5 million) and PepsiCo ($12.5 million) just to mention a few.
But before you say that players like Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith aren’t responsible for bringing in such huge sums, just remember that deals are signed on the promise of those billion set of eyeballs that are tuned in to watch them and not the IPL chairman.
Same thing with Rooney, whose £300 000 week salary is pretty much justified by the scores and scores of fans who will:
• pay to watch the declining Englishman on TV regardless of if he scores.
• pay to watch the declining Englishman at Old Trafford regardless of if he scores.
• and pay to wear the fan gear of the declining Englishman regardless of if he scores.
All of that helped the Reds haul in a record annual revenue of £433.2million in a 2013-2014 season that didn’t even see them qualify for the Champions League.
You see the world is willing to pay to watch these athletes, and big bucks at that, whether it be on our phones, tablets, laptops or televisions.
Not just the stars either, as there are no leagues or events without the last man on the bench or the relative unknown that bursts on to the scene.
So call them overpaid all you want.
You may not think they’re worth paying, but you definitely believe they’re worth watching.