Manchester City best paid team in global salary survey: how do other teams compare?

Manchester City have topped a ranking of global sports pay, with an average first team player earning more than £5.3m per year. How do other teams compare and which is the best paying league?

Manchester City have topped a ranking of global sports pay, with an average first-team player earning more than £5.3m per year.

The global sports salaries survey 2014, published by Sporting Intelligence and compiled in association with ESPN The Magazine, has calculated that an average first team salary pay per player comes in at £5.3m, or £102,653 per week. Baseball teams the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are ranked at second and third place respectively. Real Madrid and Barcelona make up the top five. Paul Campbell writes today:

If Brendan Rodgers can win the Premier League title with Liverpool this season, some of his fellow managers will not be happy. While José Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini have been bickering over whose club is more like a little horse and Arsène Wenger has been complaining about the way his rivals spend their money, Rodgers has been accelerating past them with a team that is paid less money but wins more matches and scores more goals.

Five Premier League clubs make the top 20; Manchester City (1st), Manchester United (8th), Chelsea (10th), Arsenal (11th) and Liverpool (20th). The chart below shows average earnings, annualy and per week, in both British pounds and US dollars.

The 2014 report considers 294 teams in 15 leagues in 12 countries across seven different sports: football, baseball, basketball, American football, cricket, ice hockey and Aussie Rules football.

How has it changed over time?

The New York Yankees took the lead in the first survey in 2010 with its stars earning £4.7m per year on average. In 2011, Barcelona replaced the Yankees with an average of £4.9m per year per player and remained in top position in the 2012 rankings. By 2013, Manchester City had become the best paid team in global sport and remain at the top spot in 2014.

Interestingly, Sporting Intelligence also publish the average earnings at the world's best paying sports teams over the past five years. Barcelona come out top on this ranking followed by Real Madrid and the New York Yankees. You can see the breakdown in the chart below.

Here are some key findings from the 2014 survey:

  • Biggest fallers from last year’s top 10 were Milan of Serie A, down from sixth to 27th
  • Biggest pay increase year-on-year in percentage terms (average salary) is at Toronto FC of MLS with a 256% increase in average salary to around $600,000 per player per year, which the report claims is largely down to signing big name players such as England star Jermain Defoe, midfielder Michael Bradley and Brazil goalkeeper Júlio César
  • The NBA is the highest-paying league as a whole, with 441 players at 30 teams in the 2013-14 season earning an average of £2.98m per year each
  • The Premier League is the best paying football league in the world, with the average annual pay at £2.27m per player

How are the average salaries calculated?

The survey, which has been published annually since 2010, ranks global sports team using average annual pay. They explain the importance of this measure in the latest report:

Average pay is important - as opposed to total wage outlay - because two teams spending the same totals on salaries will have starkly different averages if they are paying a significantly different number of players. It happens, and it matters. You can employ a higher number of lower quality players for the same price as a smaller number of higher quality players, and we think it’s worth exploring which is most effective for performance.

If you're wondering what the researchers mean by average, they have published this handy explainer:

By ‘average’, we mean ‘arithmetic mean’. All the salaries are added up (and by salaries, we include money for playing sport for that team, not for endorsements or sponsorship or anything else extra-curricular) and divided by the number of players. That’s it. A simple list that provokes complicated arguments but does, at the very least, provide a ‘ball park’ reckoner of what different sports teams pay.

And if you'd like to know the time period covered in the analysis, see below:

For the NBA, the NHL and the NFL, the numbers in this report pertain to the 2013-14 seasons. For MLB and MLS, the numbers are as they stood at the start of the 2014 seasons. For the IPL, NPB, AFL, CFL and CSL they come from the end of the 2013 seasons. And for the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and SPL, the salaries reflect summer 2013, in effect the end of the 2012-13 season.

More information on the methodology can be found on the Sporting Intelligence website.

The table below shows the top 100 best paying teams in the survey. You can find the full results in the downloadable spreadsheet alongside data on the best paying teams over time.

Download the data

DATA: download the full spreadsheet

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