The list of the 100 richest sportsmen in the world makes for an eye-watering read. It’s enough to make you despair over your modest salary and to make you hate the stars that you once adored. However, the same can’t be said for all sports and all sports stars.
There are a lot of sports where players put their lives on the line every week and receive a mediocre paycheck in reply. In fact, despite the fame that these players have and the toil that they put themselves through, their salaries are sometimes less than the national average.
Rugby League is a rough-and-tumble sport that everyone thinks they have heard of, but few people actually have. That’s because when people think of rugby they think of Rugby Union, which is a more popular and more widespread version of the game.
Rugby League, however, is popular in a handful of regions, including a few counties in the United Kingdom and large parts of Australia and New Zealand. The best players in this game have been known to earn salaries above $200,000 a year. Although this is nowhere near as high as the $400,000 a week earned by some top soccer stars, it’s still more than respectable.
However, the average is much closer to $40,000, and there are many players still in the top-tier that earn less than $20,000 a year. When you consider how common concussions and career-ending injuries are in the game of Rugby League, it seems a little unfair that they get paid less than the average salary.
Pool is one of the most popular games in the world, one that everyone has played or watched at some point in their lives. Everyone has heard of it, everyone has seen it, and it seems to be everywhere, so surely they are well paid?
Not quite. The biggest pool player in the history of the game, Efren Reyes, has a net worth of about $2 million, which comes from decades at the very top as well as a status as a living legend. Not exactly a sum reflective of such a status, but at least he’s still a millionaire.
The same can’t be said for the average top-tier player, however, as the average wage at the top is $50,000 a year. And that’s only the players winning occasional tournaments and earning big sponsorship deals, because as soon as you drift outside of the top 50 players in the world then you venture into salaries of less than $30,000.
You could be the 10,000th best soccer player in the world and still earn enough to be a millionaire in a few years, but if you’re one of the top 100 as a pool player then you’ll struggle to even pay for your rent and to justify all that regular travel.
The biggest boxers in the world earn staggering sums of money. Mayweather Jr. earned in excess of $100 million per fight for his last few contests and Anthony Joshua is commanding upwards of $50 million for his latest fights.
But these are the elite, and when you go down the rankings it’s a different story. The average fighter competing at domestic level can expect to earn around $5,000 to $10,000 a fight, and many will only box 1 to 3 times a year.
Even those at a higher level may struggle to earn more than $20,000 a fight outside of title fights, and while that does equate to $60,000 a year if they fight three times, there are a few issues to consider. Firstly, there are a lot of expenses, from travel to training and more. Secondly, they need to give their manager, trainer and cut-man a share, and depending on the venue they may also be required to give-up some gate receipts or to cover additional costs.
Simply put, it’s not a career that earns everyone good money and even the fighters who went up against the likes of Joshua in his early fights were likely fighting part-time and struggling to earn a decent living. It’s not great when you consider they’re putting their lives on the line and being paid to be cannon fodder for the world’s hardest hitters.
Kabaddi is here not because its biggest stars earn a modest paycheck, but because the sport is proof that you can go from being a low-earning sport to a high-earning one in a very short space of time. You don’t have to go back very far to find a time when the best players in the game were earning a very average wage for their play, with many forced to take on part-time jobs as a result.
However, in just a few years, thanks to everything from kabaddi betting to sponsorship and TV rights, the sport became one of the biggest in India and the players went from earning a few hundred dollars a month to signing contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The rise of Kabaddi is not unprecedented and we have seen similar meteoric rises with eSports in recent years, giving hope to players from all of the aforementioned sports.