The Roar
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At an average of $230,000, are AFL players underpaid?

Roar Guru
19th January, 2010
187
19703 Reads
Jason Blake and Colm Begley of St KIlda collide with Grant Birchall of Hawthorn during the AFL Round 19 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the St Kilda Saints at Aurora Stadium. Slattery Images

Jason Blake and Colm Begley of St KIlda collide with Grant Birchall of Hawthorn during the AFL Round 19 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the St Kilda Saints at Aurora Stadium. Slattery Images

It may seem like a ridiculous question at first glance, especially to the blue-collar worker who battles for every dollar, but it is worth exploring. The average AFL wage is $230,000 per season. While appearing exorbitant – it is not a pittance either – the figure is hardly enormous when you compare it with other sports.

Players in the NHL, NBA and English Premier League, for example, all enjoy greater financial riches. It has always been the case. But why? They deserve it, too. Those players are at the pinnacle of their sport, playing in competitions followed by great numbers.

But if Australian Rules Football truly is the greatest game in the world (a view held by many), surely the players of the AFL should enjoy the benefits.They are playing at the highest level of their sport as well. Given the previous TV rights deal was worth $780 million, AFL clubs/players have reason, I think, to ask for a little more.

Yes, players, as we know, are already privy to a range of benefits. But everything costs more in today’s world, and the players need to be adequately compensated for the high-standard product they are showcasing to the world.

Many would think they earn too much already, but when you compare the average AFL players’ wage to other sports, there is merit in questioning the figures.

And just imagine if your every move was scrutinised by the media. What if everything in your life, outside of work, related to your job in some way?

Imagine if your employer put a booze ban on all members at work and away from the job? If you take a sip from a VB, does your employer know? Being an AFL player is a glamorous lifestyle when things are going well. But, behind the glamour, there is another side.

Lance Franklin, for example, has been targeted by members of the public in licensed venues. But he is not the only one, of course.

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Then there are injuries, the times when you are on your own. All jobs have their ups and downs, but sport, especially, can be cruel.

Playing at the highest level does open up opportunities to work in the media and promote company brands. But only the AFL’s stars can take advantage of those.

Ben Graham can now spend a small time on the field in the NFL and, because of his punting talents, he can earn more than he ever did at Geelong. Some would say he missed a chance to play in the club’s 2007 and ’09 premiership teams, but you can understand why he left. It was worth the punt.

The numbers don’t lie, either.In 2009, the average NFL player salary was around $770000. In the NBA it is over $5 million.

Are our AFL players worthy of a wage increase? Should just the stars get paid more? Do they earn enough already?

It’s a topic worth considering.