When it comes to players earning a crust by putting their bodies on the line every week, the NFL is on a different level to Australia’s football codes. While the ages, talents and athletic abilities are more than comparable, the money that translates to their bank accounts is not.
A number of factors fall in the NFL’s favour. The larger population sizes provide the foundation for more franchises that filter across dozens of different American colleges around the country. Economic benefits derive from a greater corporatised populous and more television channels fight for a slice of the pie.
So boiling down to brass tax, how do the figures line up? Jarryd Hayne’s journey might not have been motivated on financial grounds, but if these statistics are anything to go by, he could be in for a big pay day should he turn his fortunes around at the 49ers.
Salary Cap: US$143, 280, 000
Average Salary Per Player (53 player squad): US$2,703,396
Top earner Aaron Rodgers – US$22, 000, 000 five year contract
All caps are adjusted – 39.6% top federal income tax, 1.45% medicare tax and $7,346 social security fee
Salary Cap: $6, 100, 000
Average Salary Per Player (25 player squad): $244, 000
Top earner Cameron Smith – $1, 500, 000 per year
Players can earn unlimited money from corporate sponsors not associated with the club that don’t use the game’s “intellectual property”
Salary Cap: $10, 360, 000 (as of 2016)
Average Salary Per Player (22 match day squad list): $470, 909
Top earners Gary Ablett Jr. and Lance Franklin over $1, 000, 000 per season threshold (2014)
AFL dipping extra $7 million towards player retirement fund
Salary Cap: $4, 500, 000
Average Salary Per Player (36 squad list): $125, 000
$500,000 payments outside the cap allowed from third parties
Salary Cap: $2.55 million
Average Salary Per Player (26 squad list): $98,076
Every club has to spend at least 90% of salary cap space
Dispensations for international marquees, Australian marquees, loyalty players, home grown players and guest players
This bridge between the NFL and Australian codes will never be closed because of the enormous socio-economic factors involved, but Australian sports are maturing on a financial level. The NRL and AFL respectfully have secured television rights deals valued in the billions while the new expansion of Super Rugby into Asia and South America gives the sport a different dimension into markets previously left unutilised.
Football Federation Australia are under the pump to create a sizeable increase on their current $2.55 million cap, but the introduction of Optus into the market for the English Premier League rights brings in a fresh player into the game. Content providers are desperately searching for live sport because it brings eyeballs and with it, dollars and customers. The NFL knows this and with the Australian codes following suit, the differential between the NFL elite and athletes down under will close with time.