London - Money
flooded into sport in 2016 faster than ever before and flooded out in
the shape of fatter salaries for the stars who have become multi-million
Paul Pogba's world record transfer to Manchester United set the tone
for a year of big money deals that handed the French 23-year-old wealth
beyond the dreams of most of his Old Trafford fans.
But even Pogba has got a long way to go to catch up with gold-plated
stars like Barcelona's Lionel Messi and his Real Madrid rival Cristiano
Ronaldo, the world's highest paid athlete according to Forbes, who banks
just short of $1.7 million (R24 million) a week in
salary and endorsements.
Pogba's five-year contract to join United may have raised eyebrows
among football fans and critics but top-flight managers and sports
business insiders had already priced-in mega transfer inflation.
The explosion of TV rights made the Pogba contract possible, flooding
the coffers of the English Premier League, making a mockery of economic
austerity and the jobless queues.
And the tide of high finance in sport did not stop there. TV income
rose 40 percent for Germany's Bundesliga while the US NBA enjoyed a
vintage financial year and Formula One motor racing attracted a
multi-billion dollar US takeover bid.
Three years after Welshman Gareth Bale set a world record transfer
figure of €101 million for his move to Real
Madrid, Pogba upped the ante with his €105 million transfer to
Manchester in August despite his failing to set sparks flying for France
in Euro 2016.
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson told the Daily Mail
that the moment the £8.3 billion
domestic TV deal covering 2016-2019 was signed between the Premier
League and Sky Sports and BT Sport, "transfer values and salaries were
going to go up."
The result was not long in
coming. Premier League clubs spent €1.38 billion during the 2016
summer transfer market window, 34 percent up on the previous year.
The British game's star power also spilled over into foreign markets,
where broadcast rights sell to the highest bidder. The biggest deal to
date was signed in November with Chinese video streaming service PPTV
for €600 million.
Elsewhere in Europe the Bundesliga cashed in hugely with a TV deal
worth €3.48 billion over the next three years, a near 40 percent
jump on the past year.
If economic hardship tightened the purse strings somewhat in some
other parts of Europe, the cash flowed thick and fast in basketball in
the United States, where TV income tripled and the sport generated
global revenue of $5.2 billion with operating profit
of $900 million, a record, according to Forbes.
At the same time, NBA clubs saw their value rise by an average 13
percent with the New York Knicks topping the financial league at $3
With TV income up sharply since last year - and slightly higher than
Premier League levels - NBA clubs are pushing up salaries, with LeBron
James of the Cleveland Cavaliers seeing his $23 million dollar pay cheque
boosted to $30.9 million for the 2016/17 season.
Formula One was also a big winner in the financial stakes. The sport
deemed to be in severe decline still managed to attract the high rollers
with US firm Liberty Media, run by billionaire John Malone, buying out
F1's parent company in a deal which values the sport at $8 billion.
Formula One is gambling on gaining more exposure worldwide, including
in the United States, hoping to generate an even wider revenue stream
in the future. Logically, that will translate as even more money in the
bank for the big stars.