Money Makes the Rugby World Go Round

Rugby, without anyone realising it, has become a bit of a glamour sport. It remains in a different stratosphere to football and the main American codes but there is money
29 Feb 2016 14:18
Money Makes the Rugby World Go Round

Rugby, without anyone realising it, has become a bit of a glamour sport. It remains in a different stratosphere to football and the main American codes but there is money washing about in rugby.

Good money, from sustainable sources, and the best players – be they from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Africa, England or France – are now commanding payments they could have once only dreamed of.

Comparing the best-paid players in the game now with those of five years ago shows how much richer the game has become.

It also shows how much bigger the international footprint has become, as rugby’s richest player is now a little-known 29-year-old fullback from Japan.

In a few weeks, it could be David Pocock, if he agrees to join Wasps, and a few months after that, it will no doubt change again because so many clubs have the means to go a little crazy.

Not so long ago, a salary of $1million a season was considered silly money.

Five years ago, Jonny Wilkinson was easily the world’s best-paid player, earning about $1m a season. Now, there is estimated to be as many as 20, if not more, players earning in excess of $1m a year.

Rather than being the number that separates the super elite from the elite, it is a benchmark figure that most senior internationals see as the starting point for negotiations.

That’s because the super elite are now being paid closer to $3m a season. Daniel Carter is reportedly earning €1.8m a season at Racing 92 – a deal that, when he signed it in December 2014, made him the best-paid player in the world.

It was a quantum leap for rugby, way bigger than the other major deals for the top echelon which included Bryan Habana and Matt Giteau at Toulon, Sam Burgess at Bath and John Afoa at Gloucester

Carter, given his talent, achievements and marketability, was always likely to attract an enormous, unprecedented payment once he committed to the idea of leaving New Zealand.

What is a surprise, though, is that he’s been bumped off the No 1 spot on the rich list by Ayumu Goro-maru, who will play for the Reds before joining Toulon.

The Japanese test player will reportedly earn €2.4m this year. He’s a handy enough player, but his price tag is largely driven by endorsement deals.

Goromaru’s ability to sign such big deals in Australia and France signals how far rugby has travelled along the road from the obscure sport for public schoolboys to a mass market commodity. As further evidence of that, Wasps are trying to sign Pocock on a one-year deal that is considerably bigger than Goromaru’s.

Broadcast revenue in all the game’s major club competitions has climbed sharply. The French Top 14 saw a near 40 per cent jump on their latest deal, which is worth about $120m a season.

In England, the arrival of BT Sport as a genuine rival to Sky, has seen the Aviva Premiership sell its four-year rights for $310 million – almost double what they were previously worth.



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