Paris Saint-Germain are now the best-paid sports team in the world, with average first-team wages of £5.3million a year, or £101,898 per week, according to a new report that compares global earnings in the most popular leagues.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose goals have just helped his team to a third straight Ligue 1 title since being taken over by Qatari interests in 2011, is PSG’s biggest earner but there is strength in depth across pay packets as well as the squad these days.
Five Premier League sides make the top 20 on the list, with Manchester City the highest at No 3, having been knocked off the top spot they occupied last year. City players, with Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure the marquee names, earn an average £5.02m a year, or £96,445 per week.
The top 10 also includes Champions League finalists and Spanish champions Barcelona at No 4, American baseball giants at No 5 (LA Dodgers) and at No 9 (New York Yankees) and Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich at No 7.
Barcelona’s Champions League final opponents Juventus are now the best paid team in Italy’s Serie A, on the list at No 24 with average earnings of £2.9m.
The 2015 Global Sports Salaries Survey (GSSS), produced by Sporting Intelligence in association with ESPN The Magazine in the USA, has been tracking comparative pay at major sports teams for six years. PSG are the third different football club and fourth different club to be the biggest payers following the Yankees in 2010, Barcelona in 2011 and 2012 and City in 2013 and last year.
PSG’s rise to super-wealth, like City’s before them, has been fuelled by Middle East oil money. PSG had won two French titles in their history before 2013 and now have three in three seasons.
Chelsea and City both also had long years without a title before the petrodollars of Roman Abramovich and Sheik Mansour pored in. Chelsea hadn’t won the league since 1955 before Abramovich in 2003; City had waited since 1968 before Mansour bought them in 2008.
Recent seasons have seen some slowing in the rate of growth of some elite European football club wage bills because of UEFA’s FFP rules. City’s wage bill has even dipped slightly. But with those FFP rules about to be eased, we can expect surges again at the top of this list in future years.
Among the top 20 payers, nine are football teams, including the top four, while six come from Major League baseball and five from the NBA, the richest of the basketball teams being the Brooklyn Nets, owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
Eleven of the 20 top payers are based in the USA, five in England, two in Spain and one each in France and Germany. Eighteen teams are wealthy enough that they pay an average annual wage of $100,000 per WEEK or more, and there are 176 teams on the list where the average annual pay is more than £1m a year.
The GSSS looks solely at earnings for playing sport, not for endorsements or other extra-curricular activities. The 2015 report, available in full at www.sportingintelligence.com, considers 333 teams in 17 leagues across 13 countries in seven sports: football, baseball, basketball, gridiron, cricket, ice hockey and Australian Rules football.
The NBA is the best-paying league on the planet with Brookyln Nets (in white) the highest payers
The first salaries report in 2010 was based upon the world’s most popular professional domestic sports leagues as measured by average attendance. It has expanded over time; Ligue 1 of France has been added despite having relatively small crowds because PSG’s wealth is now so significant. However, as recently as two years ago, PSG would barely have made the top 70 best-paying teams.
The NBA is the best-paying league as a whole, across all players on average, with 448 players at the 30 teams in the 2014-15 season earning £2.67m per year each, or $4.58m each on average at exchange rates applicable before the current season.
The Premier League is the best paying football league in the world, with average annual pay at £2.23m per player.
The full survey report includes research that investigates which nationalities among footballers earn the most money in Europe’s ‘Big 5’ leagues. Belgians come out on top thanks to the ‘golden generation’ of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Christian Benteke and others.
The report also analyses attendances and social media followers for each team as well as wages, and examines the degree of competitive balance (fairness) in each league.
As a rule, the greater the discrepancy between the highest paid team in a league and the lowest paid, the more ‘unfair’ and predictable that league will be. In the Scottish Premiership, for example, Celtic pay a whopping 25 times as much per player per year as Ross County. It is little surprise the Scottish title is a one-horse race these days.
In France, PSG pay 20 times as much as top-flight ‘rivals’ Guingamp, and in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona pay also 20 times as much as Rayo Vallecano.
The differences are much smaller in the major US sports and some other leagues, notably Aussie Rules football in Australia. In these leagues a variety of salary caps, drafts and play-off systems all help to level the playing field to an extent, and spread the chances of success wider.
The survey and full lists are available at www.sportingintelligence.com