English pay and what it means for U.S. men’s soccer

In yesterday’s Soccer America piece, I tried to give some perspective on the U.S. men’s soccer team’s collective bargaining negotiations (remember: they’re still playing under an expired deal) by taking a look at national team pay in other countries and other sports.

I looked at several examples — English rugby (a considerable amount of money), Indian cricket (also a lot of money), U.S. basketball (little disclosed aside from a new system of paying the women’s players to stay home in the WNBA offseason and go to training camp, though Olympians always have some commercial opportunities if they win).

The one that has drawn some criticism in my inbox is the note that England’s men give their low match fees to charity. The response is that England’s players also receive a substantial percentage of the sponsorship paid to their federation.

The info I received is from a credible source, but details are scarce, and the only mentions of this deal the source passed along are in English tabloids. One of those reports, in The Sun, suggests a split among English players’ unity on the matter. Sky Sports News has a similar report suggesting agents are wary.

I’m surprised I wasn’t pointed to more concrete details. The Times: Players have complained that the money has dropped to “about £150,000 per player.” The Telegraph: “The players’ slice is worth collectively anywhere between £4 million and £6 million annually, paid on a sliding scale according to appearances on behalf of sponsors and their place in the squad.” That’s $5 million to $7.5 million. From my calculations, the U.S. men make a little less than that in a down year of the four-year cycle and more in other years.

If England won the World Cup, The Telegraph reported elsewhere, the players would get a bonus of £5 million. Other countries would get slightly more (Germany), a good bit more (Belgium) or a lot more (Brazil).

So by all available information, if England were to win the World Cup, the bulk of the FIFA prize money of £28 million would go to the federation. But that said, sponsorship money ensures players receive a tidy sum on top of the fortunes they receive from Premier League clubs.

And commercial money makes things interesting. Under their new-ish collective bargaining agreement, the U.S. women have a chance to cash in on licensing rights. (Noteworthy: This all goes through Meghan Klingenberg, who has been out of the national team picture recently.)

Does this mean players have a chance to strike a new deal that isn’t simply about bonuses for friendly wins, draws and losses?

We don’t know. So far, negotiation details are being kept quiet. And the U.S. men are finishing their ninth month with no deal.


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