Manchester City, last season's English Premier League champion, has unseated Barcelona as the professional sports team that on average pays its players the most annually: $8.1 million, according to the ESPN The Magazine/SportingIntelligence global salary survey released Tuesday.
The Dodgers jumped from 69th last year to second, spending $7.47 million per player. Real Madrid, at $7.26 million a player, dropped from second to third. After two years at the top in the yearly survey, Barcelona fell to fourth ($7.21 million).
The survey included 278 teams in 14 leagues and seven sports across 10 countries. The 8,093 athletes surveyed earned a total of $15.75 billion. The Yankees had the highest team payroll at $228.8 million.
Nick Harris, editor of SportingIntelligence.com, who compiled the data, says Manchester City's status at the top of the rankings might not last. Teams no longer can spend more than they earn under UEFA financial fair play regulations, which might cause Manchester City's payroll to level off or drop slightly.
"Until now, they've been vastly overspending because they've been able to via their billionaire benefactor, Sheikh Mansour," Harris said. "But such benefactor subsidy is now very limited, outlawed effectively."
The Dodgers' payroll jumped from $95.1 million last year to $216.6 million, while the Marlins unloaded enough players to fall to 185th from 29th (a 74 percent drop in average salary per player).
Major League Baseball is the top U.S. league in the disparity between the top-paying team for average annual player salary and the lowest (9.14 times higher), followed by the NBA (2.3 to 1 disparity); NFL (1.57 to 1); and NHL (1.51 to 1).
Globally, the Scottish Premier League has the largest disparity (22.3 to 1); the Australian Football League has the lowest (1.18 to 1).
Whereas the hard salary caps and floors in the NHL and NFL keep ratios low, UEFA's financial fair play rules might continue to keep the European soccer leagues high, Harris said.
"Financial fair play, perversely, might actually cement the pay differentials in those leagues because big teams with big attendances and big income will be able to spend much more than little teams because their income is bigger," he said.