Sport is universal. Whether you’re in a bar in Bangkok, on a train in India or in a cafe in a small town in Maine, someone somewhere will be watching sports on their laptop, mobile phone or a TV. Sports is big business and players, coaches and managers can make huge sums if they’re at the top of their game. Modern day athletes, whether it’s soccer, baseball or golf, for example, now have way more earning opportunities than their old sporting heroes from the last century.
You may really be into sports in the US that are less popular here but are way more popular in other countries. For example, field hockey is played widely in Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, and Hong Kong. Or, lacrosse, although played professionally in the US, is played more widely in Australia, Asia, Africa, and many European countries.
So, how much can you earn?
Playing sports professionally in countries other than the US can pay. But it depends so much on what level you’re at and which country. In the UK and the rest of Europe, by far the best-paid sports people are male soccer players or footballers as they’re known across the pond. A statistica.com survey shows that during the 2018/19 football season, Manchester United paid its players the highest average salary in the English Premier League, paying its first team an average of $8.6m a year.
Manchester City comes in at a close second at $7.89m, and Cardiff City coming in the last place at a still more than respectable $1.26 million a year. Whereas in the US, in 2018 the average MLS salary is between $300,970 to $902,410. A far cry from European players. The Global Sports Salary Survey 2018 found that the average annual salary of a Barcelona player is around $13m a year, putting the team well clear at the top of the salary scale.
However, women soccer players don’t do so well. Despite women’s football being aired on national TV in the UK, its stars average £26,752 a year in comparison. Whereas here in the US, look at Alex Morgan, who reportedly earns $300,000 a year and when she played on loan in Lyon, she was reportedly paid $40,000 a week, putting her up there with the guys in terms of income.
According to the GSSS, Barcelona is the highest paid team in the world, followed by Real Madrid at $10,644,272m a year. Next up are the US NBA teams, with Oklahoma City Thunder paying an average whopping $10,327,383m a year and the Golden State Warriors at $10,289,079 a year. But playing NBA anywhere else in the world is tougher. Mostly, teams are found in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela where, with the exception of Canada, salaries are lower. Major US League Baseball Players earned an annual average of $4,512, 768.
One sport that has long been associated with riches across the globe is golf. And although it’s still the best and highest ranking players that get paid the most, it is a sport that can be played and paid well in many countries, with top male players raking in around $1.6m per event, and $40m if you’re playing a PGA tour schedule. And the sponsorship rewards are huge. Look at Tiger Woods, who, according to Business Insider is the highest paid golfer of all time earning $122.5m throughout his career to date.
Although the US does have a national cricket team, it’s in the UK, India, Pakistan, and Australia is where the action’s at. Average Indian Professional League salaries are high. Kolkata Night Riders pay an average of $5,309,565 a year, whereas US cricketing salaries don’t even hit the top ten league tables.
Ice hockey continues to be highly paid in the US and Canada, with average National Hockey League salaries at around $2,783,728 a year. But looking at Europe, top teams like SM Liga (Finland), DEL (Germany) and the Swiss A League, top players get around $500,000 a season. The European leagues are full of former NHL players who are coming to the end of their careers or can’t find full-time NHL careers.
If, however, it’s not about the money, then there are other options. You might be just at the start of your sports career and want to see what’s out there, then do your research first, or dip a toe in the water coaching or volunteering during your gap year.
Although the benefits of playing sports abroad aren’t just financial. Sports are great for your well-being, and playing team sports can help shape your character and attitude to winning and losing. Playing sports abroad can also broaden your cultural horizons and increase your confidence and maturity, especially if you’re in a country where the English language, isn’t widely spoken. It can test you and give you an inner strength that you can use in your sports. If you love to travel, then going abroad and playing the sports you love while traveling can be a fantastic opportunity to expand your cultural and sporting knowledge.
And the money made from advertising and sponsorship is monumental. It’s just one of the reasons why it’s possible to pay sportsmen and women so well, although the guys still fare better than women on this one.