Elite sportsmen and women spend countless hours, and boundless energy, dedicating themselves to performing on the world stage. But exactly how well are they paid for the time they spend in competitive action? And how does the pay compare between male and female stars?
As huge supporters of women in elite sport, we wanted to find out. So, we took the basic salary of some of the world’s biggest sports stars, and worked out how much they earn for every minute they spend playing.
To compare how much top sports stars earn per minute, we collected three pieces of data from a variety of personalities:
1. The salary of a sports star
2. The minutes they spent playing their sport in a recent season or tournament/s
Salary per minute played
Male footballers are among some of the best paid sports players in the world. Our research shows not only how well the biggest names in football are paid for their endeavours out on the pitch, but also how much more they are paid than their female counterparts.
Paris St.Germain forward Neymar earned the highest amount per minute during the most recently completed 2017-18 season. Despite earning £8.5 million less in basic salary than Lionel Messi, the Brazilian spent less time out on the pitch last season (across their domestic leagues, cups, and the Champions League) than his Argentine rival, meaning his money earned per minute was higher.
At £22,364 per minute, he earned 48% more than Messi’s total of £15,048 per minute and 73% more than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Compare Messi to the highest paid female footballer, Alex Morgan, and the numbers differ considerably. At £431, she earns around 35 times less at Orlando Pride than Messi.
The story is the same throughout the game. Amandine Henry, the third highest paid female footballer per minute, still earns some 58 times less her male counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo did during his final season at Real Madrid (he now plays at Italian giants Juventus).
The gap between the average pay per minute of male and female football stars is staggering. The average FA Women’s Super League player earns just 2% per minute compared to the average Premier League player (were those players to play every minute of their respective league seasons).
Average salary: £27,084
Salary per minute: £16.72
Average salary: £2,642,508
Salary per minute: £772.66
The National Basketball Association (NBA), has come under scrutiny in recent years for its lack of action on the gender pay gap. So, we analysed two top basketball players, Stephen Curry and Candace Parker, to see how the NBA’s top earner stacks up against the WNBA’s (Women’s NBA) top earner.
Despite being paid the maximum salary allowed by the WNBA’s salary cap and completing some 900 minutes less of action during the 2017 season, star WNBA player Candace Parker got paid 179 times less than Gold State Warrior’s Stephen Curry.
It was the same for the second highest players. Skylar Diggins-Smith also hits the WNBA salary ceiling of £87,209. After playing for 1,197 minutes in 2017, she was paid £72.86 for each one.
Compare that with Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James. His $33 million salary (or £25 million) came to him at £6,478 per minute.
Take the average salary from both leagues, and WNBA players receive just 2.5% of what an NBA player will receive for every 60 seconds of action (if they were to play every minute of the regular season and playoffs).
Average salary: £57,490
Salary per minute: £35.23
Average salary: £5,497,859
Salary per minute: £1,396.81
Tennis is a sport at the forefront of equal pay, as each of the four majors now offers the same prize money for the winners of the men’s and women’s singles events. We selected some of the best performing players from this year’s majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open), to see how their pay-per-minute stacks up.
Women’s tennis matches during the majors tend to be short in length, due to the best of three sets they play as opposed to best of five in the men’s game. With this in mind, it isn’t surprising to see women with higher salary per minute figures than men at major championships.
Women take up three of the top four highest earnings per minute figures this season, headed up by Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki. The only male who can compete is Novak Djokovic, who has amassed over £5 million in major winnings this season.
Take June’s Wimbledon Championships as an example. Novak Djokovic played for 1,073 minutes for his victory, almost double that of female champion Angelique Kerber (591 minutes). Taking home the same £2.54 million pot means the Kerber earned £4,311 per minute, 81% more than Djokovic.
Sports star salaries: The salaries of each sports star discussed above were found through various sources, such as the Forbes Sports Rich List and other published articles disclosing sports player earnings (full list of references below), or by calculating winnings from major events from that sport.
Only basic salary or winnings were considered - endorsements and sponsorships were excluded. And salaries provided in Pounds Sterling converted from US Dollars (with an exchange rate of 0.77 US Dollars to Pound Sterling).
Minutes spent playing sport: Data for each sports player was either taken from statistics sites such as WhoScored.com and Soccerway, or by taking the official match or race times from the events chosen for that sport (full list of references below). Only competitive game time was considered.