WHO SAYS MONEY can't buy happiness? According to the ESPN The Magazine/Sportingintelligence Global Salary Survey, the 2013 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks spent an average of $2.3 million per player last season, the second-highest total in the NFL. Though the franchise spent more per player than 30 other NFL teams, it ranked No. 116 overall, behind all 30 NBA teams, all but two major league baseball clubs and 13 of 20 English Premier League squads.
"A lot of people think because the NFL has great ratings, the players must be the wealthiest," says Sportingintelligence editor Nick Harris. "A list like this over time shows the disconnect."
The NBA is the highest-paying league in the world, as roughly $2 billion was paid to 441 players, for an average salary of $4,522,283 per player. The 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets, thanks largely to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's desire to build a contending team immediately, have the highest average payoll at $6.8 million per player, up from $5.5 million last season. The offseason acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce increased the overall team payroll from $82,726,245 to $102,211,009, a jump from No. 16 to No. 6 on the overall list. The larger payroll is costing Prokhorov more than $80 million in luxury taxes alone.
Other notable items in the survey include Serie A behemoth A.C. Milan's dropping 21 spots, from No. 6 to No. 27. A.C. Milan's team payroll declined from $177,909,000 in 2011-12 to $155,928,000 in 2012-13. Back in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers fell from No. 7 to No. 19 in team payroll, due in large part to the departures of Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, whose combined salary was $26.8 million.
In addition to the yearly salary data, Harris compiled a list of 198 teams that are ranked by the total salary an average player made over the past five seasons. Of these 198 teams, 49 had an average player who has earned $20 million or more since 2009. La Liga's Barcelona tops this list with an average five-year spend of $37,975,600 per player. Real Madrid comes in at No. 2 at $37 million, followed by the New York Yankees' $35.8 million, Manchester City's $31.7 million and Chelsea's $31 million to complete the top five. Over the span, the Lakers were the NBA's highest-paying club, coming in at No. 7 overall, having spent $29,883,100 on the average player over the past five years. The NFL's highest-paid team, the Dallas Cowboys, doesn't land until No. 93, and the average Cowboy was paid $11.8 million over the five years.
The results of the survey reveal the spending trends of 294 teams in 15 leagues in seven sports across the globe. The total wages of the 8,663 athletes surveyed amounted to $16.15 billion. Figures exclude endorsements, appearance fees and sponsorships and have been converted to U.S. dollars. The lists include money paid in salaries to players who form the "first-team squad" or active roster across a season. Salaries for the survey are taken from the following years:
MLB, MLS: 2014
NBA, NHL: 2013-14
NFL, CSL (Chinese Super League, soccer), NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), AFL (Australian Football League) and CFL (Canadian Football League): 2013
EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and SPL: 2012-13
IPL (Indian Premier League, cricket): Annual pay extrapolated from 2013 tournament
Editor's note: A different methodology was used for the nine IPL clubs on the list. Those clubs -- Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils, Chennai Super Kings, Pune Warriors, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals -- play a six-week season. Because the season is so short, Harris derives their placement by determining the amount a team pays out on a weekly basis and then multiples that figure by 52 weeks. Therefore, the average annual pay for these nine IPL clubs is not an amount of money that the club actually pays, but a reflection of what they would pay out to their players if the IPL had more of a year-round season.