How Much Do Professional Athletes Really Make?

STARNBERG, February 21, 2020 (Guest post)

Many people are of the opinion that professional athletes are overpaid. While the likes of Tiger Woods demand multi-million-dollar contracts, how much do professional athletes that aren’t hitting the headlines really make? It seems that even those whose names we don’t know by heart still earn a great wage.

Some sports are more lucrative than others though. Football, for example, is renowned for its enormous multi-million pound salaries that its top players earn. Similarly, the prize money for Wimbledon sits at around £38 million, with singles champions earning £2.35m and even first-round singles losers walking away with £45,000. In other sports, however, the salaries are not as high, and athletes may even have to balance their wages with other jobs. These are the average salaries for the major sports and how much athletes are really earning.


In football, the top flight players are some of the best paid sports stars in the industry. Leagues such as the Premiership pay their players millions in salaries and it’s not uncommon for athletes in this sport to be earning six-figure salaries. Players like Eden Hazard is worth a whopping £40 million while Manchester United player Alexis Sanchez brings in a total of £39 million for his skills on the pitch. There’s also the sponsorships and advertisements that make up their wages. But for players who aren’t in the top clubs, the salaries are much lower, with some making less than £1000 a month.

Horse Racing

The pay can be great for the likes of Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori, who earn thousands every week at the highest level of this sport. But these spots are few and far between, with just three flat jockeys earning £215,000 in riding fees and winnings in 2016. Jockeys are usually self-employed, so their earnings vary considerably compared to other sports like rugby or football. There’s no fixed salary and much of their earnings come from riding fees and winnings, with £561,000 up for grabs to the Grand National runners in 2020.


In terms of top athletes, the likes of Rory McIlroy beat all other athletes for their wealth, with McIlroy topping the list of highest earning athletes with a reported wealth of £138 million, despite his last major win being in 2014. As with other sports, much of a professional golfers’ earnings comes from sponsorships and partnerships with brands – this can earn well-known athletes as much as £25 million a year just in endorsements alone.


Tournaments like Wimbledon offer massive million-pound prizes, but much of a tennis star’s earnings come from endorsements. Andy Murray, for example, is worth a reported £123 million. It can be one of the best paying sports for professional athletes compared to other sports.

In terms of earnings, as with most industries, the higher up the rankings you go and the more experienced a player is, the more they will earn. But for professional athletes who don’t make the top mark, the salaries could be considerably lower, even to the point where they have to supplement their income through other jobs.