In the months of March,April and May of this most forgetful of years, the focus of most people was not on which sporting events had been cancelled or postponed. Instead we were determined to do everything we could to protect our Health Services, stay at home and admire the commitment and dedication of our frontline key workers. Now that the initial Covid onslaught has passed,our attentions have now moved on to how exactly we value the contribution of those workers vital to our daily lives and charged with the responsibility of keeping us safe and taking care of us when we are afflicted with life threatening illness.
As we have moved out of lockdown and the sporting world has taken those tentative nervous steps towards some level of competitive “ normality “, the ludicrous iniquities of reward and value has been brutally exposed.
Just when Spain was showing some encouraging signs of coming through the worst of its Covid experience, the mighty Barcelona FC, one of the iconic European soccer clubs of the last fifty plus years announced to the utter dismay of its fanatical followers that the club’s no.1 player and arguably the best player in the world for the last ten years Lionel Messi had indicated his intention to leave the club at the end of the season. While every soccer fan on the planet would want Messi plying his trade with their club in the future, the sheer scale of Messi’s pay package would certainly rule out all but the wealthiest handful of top clubs.
To put things in perspective Messi is paid the equivalent of over £220,000 PER DAY ! PER DAY !!!
The same figure would pay the salaries of Two Consultants working in the NHS for a YEAR
Of course the massive earning potential of top sportsmen and, admittedly to a far lower level, sportswomen is nothing new. However with our recent situation giving rise to a greater appreciation of “ lower skilled “ workers together with the incredible dedication of medical professionals across the country, this may well be the time for us to re-set the bar on pay and rewards.
The world of golf is certainly not immune to these commercial pressures. Dustin Johnson, one of the top USA players recently netted a staggering $15 million for his latest victory at the Fed-Ex Championship.
This nice little earner now moves him to fifth spot on the list of total career earnings on The PGA Tour with an overall haul to date of $67.5 million. Or to put it another way, how much Senor Messi earns in about 9 months of sweat and toil.With his apparently carefree, swaggering approach to the game allied to an immensely powerful swing, DJ has established himself as a firm favourite with golf fans around the world. He has accumulated an impressive number of titles and even holds the dubious honour of being runner up in all four Majors. The only black mark on his golf c.v. is the fact that he has only secured victory in one Major ( U.S. Open )so far in his otherwise very successful career.
Dustin is in good company. Just above him in the career earnings list sit Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh; without doubt two of the most consistent performers and tenacious competitors to ever pick up a lob wedge.
Only the dynamic duo Messrs Woods and Mickelson stand ahead of these three in terms of earnings, with Phil on his own having won the same number of Majors as Jim,Vijay and Dustin combined.
Like many of my generation, my earliest memories of watching the top players was dominated by the BBC coverage of The Masters at the start of the golf season and The Open during the summer school holidays.
During the mid/late 70’s this meant the likes of Nicklaus,Watson,Miller,Weiskopf and a certain Spanish maestro by the name of Ballesteros engaged in their annual battle on the links of Scotland and England.
In those days the reputation of every player was based on a very simple test. How many Majors has he won ?
At the start of every new season we debated who would win The Masters, The Open , The US Open, The USPGA.
I cannot recall ever discussing money lists or even how much the winner of these great championships would receive.
Just out of curiosity I did look down the earnings list for some of the legends of our sport. Of course the Tour has grown massively over the last 30 years and then there is inflation etc etc but the figures are still astounding.
Tom Watson at no 175 and $11.1 mill
Jack Nicklaus at no 298 and $5.7 mill
Johnny Miller at no 413 and $2.7 mill
All of them superb players; all of them recognised as some of the best players of all time. Great competitors. Great moments in golf.
Jealous of the modern group of pros earning obscene amounts playing a game we all love ? Absolutely.
Concerned that we will see Golf go the way of so many other sports with a large collection of fairly mediocre performers being so richly rewarded for very average results that the drive and ambition necessary to sustain excellence over many years in the pursuit of Major success simply disappears.Certainly.
If we are to continue with a world where some sports stars earn more in a month than most world class surgeons earn in their entire working life, then let us agree that only those winning the major championships are entitled to the big pay days. Let’s also hope that many more follow the example of Justin Rose and his wife who have been very supportive of both men’s & women’s golf tours, allocating substantial amounts of their own earnings in the process. Generosity allied to a sense of humility resulting in the very best of sporting gestures from a Major Champion and Ryder Cup Star.