If Australian tennis players were AFL players……
Tennis is a strange sport in that at the very top professional level, the prize money is huge as is the fame and lifestyle. Most people understand there is big money being a pro tennis player with big crowds watching at the Slams and millions of viewers watching at home.
But where tennis gets interesting is as it drops down the levels of the sport, the prize money gets dropped much faster as do the crowds watching. There has been some good discussion around how the lower levels of the tennis tour can provide better prize money and a fairer way for those say outside the top 200 in the world to be able to still make strong income by playing professional tennis.
At a national level, it’s interesting to compare tennis competitions to Australian Rules Football (my other favourite sport). The reality is that AFL gets huge viewership, sponsorship and media coverage. Tennis on the other hand has experimented with an Asia Pacific Tennis League but currently still the premium league is the State League competitions held around the country.
- 18 teams competing with 22 players listed each week = 396 players
- Another 250 or so players on an AFL list.
- Starting salary of $71 500 up to $1 000 000 per year for the stars.
- Average salary in the mid $300 000s.
- AFL players are well known around the country.
- Travel and other expenses paid by clubs.
- There are 33 Australian players in the top 1000 in the world who mainly will be travelling internationally to play semi pro or pro events. Around half of them would be earning a respectable living and the other half breaking even or actually turning a loss after expenses come out.
- If we take 50 State League level teams that’s 200 more players.
- If we then drew the next 166 players from State League reserves and Division 1 leagues around the country this would be approximately 75% of all Division 1 players.
- So by taking pro level players then state league level and then division 1 level we come get a comparison to how deep those 396 AFL players would look nationally in tennis.
- The best State Leaguers in tennis may get $10k for the season but this would be high and more likely to get closer to $2k for the season (or nothing in some cases and states)
- Division 1 players would unlikely be paid anything (except a free membership)
So to have some more fun with this let’s compare AFL and Aussie Tennis players further:
#8 best player
- #8 in last year’s Brownlow medal was Dustin Martin.
- #8 ranked Australian Tennis player is Marc Polmans. (149 in world)
- Who has heard of Dusty? Who has heard of Marc?
- How much does Dusty make? How much does Marc make?
All Australian Team example
- If we look at who makes the All Australian Team (22 players) we have Max Gawn on the interchange. Gawn has been said to be earning between $600-$900k per season.
- If we look at the 22nd best player in Australian Tennis we get Jacob Grills who has a career earnings of $91000. Career earnings. Then you have to take off the travel expenses. He is not earning anything.
So respect to those tennis players who play at that ‘AFL’ top tier level of the sport or even second tier level. Tennis players in most cases have made a lifetime commitment with hour after hour of practice, matches and tournaments starting from very young. Where the financial payoff and status are limited for those who have not reached the very top, tennis players should be proud to have reached this level in the country.
State of Origin?
The challenge then is to think of ways to build the popularity of our tennis leagues. How to build the viewership and sponsorship and get fans and aspiring players engaged in our leagues, invested in our clubs and interested in following our best players. Is a national league the answer? Or a national playoff once per year to help Australians learn more about their best players in the game? Personally I like the idea of a State of Origin where the best players from each state compete. You could have NSW, VIC, SA, QLD teams and perhaps given the lower population, ACT, TAS and NT could form an ALLIES team.
Thanks for reading and love to hear your thoughts on anything related to this post.
Head Coach – Scarborough Tennis