The Percentage of a Sport’s Revenue Taken Home by its Athletes
This month’s Tennis magazine has an article discussing the fact that tennis players feel their sport should “share” more of its profits (the article uses revenues and profits haphazardly) with its players. Apparently, tennis players feel like the low man on the totem pole, only taking home 26% of the revenue (not profits, which would result in a substantially higher percentage, one would think) generated by the sport. The article has a graphic that compares the 26% earned (or won) by tennis players to other team sports (a fair comparison?):
- Baseball players take home 52% of MLB revenue
- Hockey players take home 56% of NHL revenue
- Basketball players take home 57% of NBA revenue
- Football players take home 62% of NFL revenue
[Note: golf is not mentioned, my guess is that it’s similar to tennis or even lower]
The article tries to make a case for greater distribution of revenue, but points out that the primary reason that sports like tennis are on the low end of the revenue-sharing spectrum is that the players aren’t unionized and, therefore, have no collective power. Of course, being an international sport, it would be difficult to create a worldwide union. Even in the US, only employees of a company can create a union. The players are clearly not employees.
The article further points out that to be successful, the top players would have to be a member of such a collective bargaining group. The top players, who make gobs-o-money have little incentive to give up some of their earnings to make sure the group of players makes more. Therefore, aside from the legal/structural difficulties, it’d be difficult to imagine how the players themselves would work together to establish a strong bargaining coalition.
Personally, I believe that tennis, like all professional sports are about entertainment and, I think it all works pretty well. If I thought that competition would get better with more money at stake, I’d be in favor of major changes. Since it’s pretty damned good right now, I don’t think I’ll be supporting changes any time soon.