Do Top Golfers Earn More Than Other Sports - How They Compare
THE uproar surrounding Greg Norman and his LIV Series is all about two things - the vast sums of money involved and the fact that the money is coming from Saudi Arabia, a part of the world with a shocking human rights record.
Golfers find themselves being accused of greed. We will come back to that. But before we become too obsessed with the vast sums being earned by the world’s best golfers, let’s have a look at the money swashing around in some other sports. And the numbers are simply mind-boggling.
In the Premier League, the average weekly wage is around £100,000. Manchester City have just signed Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund for around £55m. The striker has signed a deal worth about £375,000 a week, which equates to £19.5m a year. On top of that, there will be win bonuses linked to trophies won and goals scored.
Haaland recently rejected a boot deal from Puma reported to be worth £7m a year. Instead, he signed for Adidas. It is fair to assume that they offered him a more lucrative contract. So that all adds up to an annual pre-tax income in the region of £30m.
Not bad for a 21-year-old who has yet to prove himself at the highest level.
But that is chicken feed compared with American football. The average annual salary in the NFL is $5m. However, Aaron Rodgers, of the Green Bay Packers, earns more than £50m a year. And Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Deshaun Watson has a £230m deal that pays him a mere $46m a year.
Legendary quarterback Tom Brady is estimated to have earned a mind-boggling $302,674,250 during his glittering career. And he has just signed a lucrative future deal to join Fox Sports as an NFL analyst.
You will have heard of Steph Curry, the basketball player with dreams of competing on the PGA Tour. And he can certainly afford to take the gamble if he chooses to do so.
The Warriors star is the NBA's highest-paid player. Curry will make nearly $46 million in the final year of his current deal. He signed an extension that will kick in at the start of the 2022-23 season and is worth a total of $215m over four years. In the past year, Forbes estimates LeBron James’ off-court earnings at $70m.
Tennis players don’t do too badly either.
At the start of 2022, Roger Federer was the sport’s all-time top earner, having accumulated $130m in career prize money and a further $84m in sponsorship deals. Tennis is one of the few sports that equally rewards women. Serena Williams has more than $94m in career prize money and a conservative estimate puts her sponsorship earnings at $35.5m.
You may be surprised to learn that, according to Forbes, the highest-paid sports star in 2021 was Conor McGregor, the controversial UFC fighter, who coined in a scarcely believable $180m. Much of this came from the sale of his whiskey brand, Proper No Twelve.
The latest Forbes estimates have Lionel Messi as sport’s top earner this year, with, wait for it, £105.6m, made up of £60.9m in wages and £44.7m in sponsorship deals. Cristiano Ronaldo earned a “mere” £93.5m. Clearly, Haaland still has a long way to go.
Seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton doesn’t do too badly either. He has a very lucrative contract with Mercedes and a host of sponsorship deals. When you put it all together, Hamilton earns more than $80m a year.
When Tyson Fury knocked out Dillian Whyte to retain his world heavyweight boxing crown it took his career earnings to just over £100m. He says that he has now hung up his gloves for good but if he can be persuaded to return to fight Anthony Joshua he can expect to easily add a further £30m to that total.
So what about golf?
You won’t be surprised to learn that nobody comes close to Tiger Woods. He has earned $120m in prize money alone. That is impressive enough but a sponsorship portfolio that includes TaylorMade, Nike, Bridgestone and Hero MotoCorp, take his total career earnings to somewhere in the region of $1.5 billion. You read that correctly! He earned $60m in 2021, despite spending most of the year recovering from injuries sustained in a life-threatening car crash.
Phil Mickelson earned $4.1m in prize money in 2021, but a further $42m in off-course earnings. Rory McIlroy ‘only’ won $4.8m in prize money but don’t lose any sleep for him - he topped that up with a further $28m in sponsorship earnings.
After the Wells Fargo Championship, 78 players on the PGA Tour had already picked up at least $1m in prize money. And that was after just one of the year’s majors.
The bottom line is that, like all professional sports, golf has plenty of men and women who enjoy a fabulous standard of living as a result of their efforts. There will always be many who struggle to eke out a living, but golf is not alone in that, and that will continue no matter how much cash the Saudis pour into our sport.
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