I think you will agree with me when I say a career in sports today is unlike anything it used to be. Television broadcasts and the consequent competition among broadcasters have driven boatloads of money to the world of sports.
I am not exactly a sports aficionado, but, I do like the other dynamics, especially financial, that sports of today bring to the table. Personally, I like watching football. I think I have mentioned somewhere in my profile about my love for the beautiful game.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you would know that FIFA tournaments are some of the biggest money-spinners in the world of sports. This is owing to their ever expansive global fan base. While the status of football as the insurmountable force remains undisputed, other sports such as poker, horse-racing and motorsports are also upping their ante.
The following list of the top ten richest sporting events is a result of my second-hand research. I have applied the ‘Total Prize Money’ filter to draw this list together. Just for clarity: a) Figures in the brackets indicate the ‘Prize pool’ for the whole tournament and b) all figures are for the most recently held tournaments.
So without further ado, here are the top ten richest sports events in the world:
10. British Open Golf ($10.25 million)
In 2017, for the first time in the illustrious history of the British Open, the players were awarded the prize money in dollars. The total purse crossed $10 million USD mark for the first time.
The British open also has the distinction of being the oldest golf tournament in the world. The R&A (The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) is the ruling body of golf throughout the world except for the US and Mexico.
9. Dubai World Cup ($30 million)
Organized by the Dubai Racing Club, Dubai World Cup is the richest race meeting on the planet. The total prize pool of $30 million is spread across 9 races. The grand prize of the night carries a $10 million payday.
Dubai has tough competition coming up though. The inaugural Pegasus World Cup 2017 in Florida had the grand prize of $12 million. Next year, it’s expected to go up to $16 million.
Nonetheless, in terms of total cash pool, Dubai World Cup still rules the roost with a $30 million kitty.
8. FedExCup Playoffs ($32 million)
The PGA tour championship culminates into Fedex playoffs competition every year since 2007. Once the tour is over, the top 125 players get into a progressive, four-phase elimination competition – The Northern Trust championship (125 players), the Dell Technologies Championship (100 players), the BMW championship (70 players).
The first three playoffs cut down the number of players to 30 who then enter the last playoff, the Tour championship called the FedExCup.
The four playoffs offer a total purse of $32 million. The winner of the FedExCup walks away with $10 million. Tiger Woods happens to be the only golfer to have won the FedExCup twice – in 2007 and 2009.
7. US Open ($50.4 million)
Contrary to popular perception, the Wimbledon tournament held in England every year is not the most remunerative one. The US open pips its English counterpart.
The year 2017’s tournament brought the total prize money to $50.4 million, an increase of 9% over last year’s pool. Both winners, Rafael Nadal (men’s) and Sloane Stephens (women’s) banked the cheque of $3.7 million each.
In comparison, the Wimbledon has a prize money of $41 million.
6. The World Series Championship ($66 million)
The World Series is the annual championship of MLB (Major League Baseball). Don’t be fooled by the name though. Despite being called the World Series, the tournament is restricted to North America and is played amongst all-American teams.
When it comes to splurging prize money, MLB beats the other US sports leagues like NFL, NBA and MLS. The estimated prize pool for the 2017 championship was $66 million.
5. World Series of Poker ($68 million)
This one totally blew my brains. I know that professional poker players make loads of money. But all my conjectures about the mountain of prize money available in a single tournament would have fallen flat.
This was until I learnt that the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas has a prize purse of $68 million. The 2017 winner Scott Blumstein got jaw-dropping $8.15 million in award money.
4. FIFA World Cup ($358 million)
FIFA World Cup secures the place of the most spectacular, hi-decibel event in the world of sports. The buzz generated before the event is unparalleled. The first World Cup was played in 1930 and ever since, it has been held after every 4 years, of course, barring a few exceptions in between.
Germany, the winners of the 2014 World Cup took home $35 million.
As I write this piece, it is being widely reported that FIFA has bumped up the prize money to $400 million for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
3. UEFA Europa League ($465 million)
Europa League for years has served the second fiddle to the much bigger Champions League competition. Every year in May, with the respective conclusion of seasons in various leagues, fans get to know where their favorite clubs would play.
Honestly, a qualification for Europa League barely creates a buzz unless your team has never qualified for Europe or is qualifying after many years.
Despite the League not enjoying the same stature as the Champions League, the financial part doesn’t look all that bad. An overall prize pool of $465 million is not mediocre by any yardstick. This figure comprises both the fixed payments and the media rights money (explained in detail up next).
Manchester United, the winners of the 2016/17 Europa League banked $47 million. The prize money included the fixed payments of $18 million and the money from the TV rights.
2. Formula one ($940 million)
Formula One Management’s (FOM) underlying revenues for the ongoing 2017 season is expected to be $1.38 billion. Of the underlying revenues, 68% or $940 million are distributed among the ten qualifying teams.
Curiously, Formula one follows a secret revenue distribution formula designed by the former CEO Bernie Ecclestone. Scuderia Ferrari, apparently, is one of the beneficiaries of this formula. It receives a special cut from the revenues for its long-term contribution to the sport.
Ferrari is projected to walk away with a total of $180 million while the likely winners Mercedes will end up with $171 million.
1. UEFA Champions League 2016/17 ($1.47 billion)
The big one. The insurmountable. The real Mcgyver. The glamorous parade of the best football clubs on planet Earth. UEFA’s elite tournament brings together 32 of the best football clubs in nine months long competition.
Unlike other competitions, the mathematics behind the prize money is a little complex. That is unless you are an ardent football fan, you know. The lush Champions league money pool of $1.47 billion comprises two parts – fixed amount (60%) and a variable amount (40%) often referred to as market pool.
The fixed prize pool ($884 million last year) is awarded according to how the teams perform in the group stages and their respective performances from thereon. Even if a club gets ousted from the group stages and fails to win a single match, it is still entitled to $14.73 million plus share from the market pool.
Monies from the market pool ($588 million last year) are the TV rights money coming from each country. They are distributed in equal proportion amongst the clubs coming from a particular league.
This is why the TV deals matter: the 2016/17 Champions League winners Real Madrid received $95.7 million in prize money. But, since the Italian TV deals were more valuable than the Spanish media rights, Juventus, the Italian club that lost to Real Madrid took home $130 million.