Together with the start last week in Melbourne of the 2015 edition of cricket’s global showpiece, the World Cup, the Australian Business Review Weekly (BRW) also published its list of the top 50 highest earning sport stars in Australia.
According to the BRW, Andrew Bogut, a basketball star in America, earned US$16.2m in 2014 and was the richest Australian sport star. He is followed by golfers Adam Scott and Jason Day with earnings of US$15.5m and US$10.65m respectively.
However, the most representative sport on the list is cricket. No fewer than 14 international cricketers made the list. Six are in the top 20 (with overall position and earnings in brackets):
- Shane Watson: 8th, Aus$4.5m
- Mitchell Johnson: 10th, Aus$4.1m
- Michael Clarke: 11th, Aus$4m
- David Warner: 12th, Aus$3.8m
- Steve Smith: 14th, Aus$3.1m
- James Faulkner: 18th, Aus$2.8m
Personal endorsements make up a fair chunk of these players’ earnings but the vast majority of it comes from lucrative playing contracts with Cricket Australia and in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
At the time of writing, Aus$1 will buy you R9,05. Converting James Faulkner’s earnings, for example, to Rand will give you R25.3m. Adjusting this number further according to the current Big Mac Index (which measures currencies’ relative buying power), the Australian dollar’s buying power is 50% of the Rand. Faulkner’s adjusted earnings are therefore R12.65m. This is roughly also the income bracket of South Africa’s top earning cricketers like AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn based on their Cricket South Africa and IPL contracts; accurate numbers are not available though. The point is, however, South Africa’s top earners get way less than the Shane Watsons of the world.
Even Michael Hussey, who retired from all forms of cricket after the 2014 IPL, the 14th best paid Australian cricketer at no.49 on the BRW earned Aus$1.4m. Whoever the 14th best paid South African cricketer is, you can bet your bottom dollar (excuse the pun) that his earnings won’t be close to Hussey’s.
These numbers are a vivid indication of how the imbalance of power in world cricket (Australia/India/England vs. the rest) already has a material influence on the earning capacity of South African cricketers. The status quo also tells us that for the foreseeable future there is no prospect of a correction.
According to the latest ICC rankings for teams and individuals, South Africa has the best team and players across all three formats. What a travesty that supremacy on the field cannot be converted to a fair and just financial reward.