Saturday, 6 April 2013

Are You Worth Your Wages?

It's easy to whinge.  In fact, this whole blog is just a big outlet for my whinging.  I complained (a lot) when I got back from London that my wages in Australia are rubbish.  I justify that by considering the financial contribution I bring to the firm I work for and although I'm sick of arguing the point, I'm in favour of a CEO being paid millions if they were good for the company.  It's even easier to argue in favour of a huge bonus for a trader who makes millions for the company.  If a small percentage of their profits equate to $30m then a bonus of $30m is fine by me. 

Curtis Compton/The Associated Press
What about at the other end?  What if it's not so easy to equate your positive impact on a company to your personal income?  Prize money in sport is a difficult debate because it's not always obvious how much the athletes contribute to the sport's income.  Maybe Lakers ticket sales are lower when Kobe Bryant is injured (I dunno why, it's not entertaining to watch a guy take the tough shot when there are 4 others who could take the easy shot if he'd just pass it...) but for other sports/ players it's not that clear cut.

A few years ago the Australian Netballers cracked it over low wages.  This made me understand the whole vicious circle that is the spectator/ media/ sponsorship merry-go-round.  Lift each of them and the cash will flow but none of them will lift without the others.  One Netballer at the time said something like 'we work as hard as AFL players so we should be paid the same'.  Poor girl.  I'm sure she works harder than most AFL players but that's not what gets the cash in.  Having 8,000 people at your game vs 60,000 is the difference between being paid $15k a year and $200k a year.

So all of this was raised again in my little Triathlon world, this week, when the richest prize purse in Triathlon halved it's payout for the 2013 race.  The Hy-Vee in Iowa has dished out between $150k and $200k to the winner over the last few years and when they said we'll only give the winner $100k this year a lot of athletes had a hissy fit.  ONE HUNDRED GRAND!  Shut. Up.  Triathlon is not Golf or Tennis.  It never will be; but when the Ironman World Championships only pays the winner $120k I'd be stoked with the possibility of an extra hundred grand pay day.  In addition to this, Hy-Vee pays all the way down to 30th place.  I don't know too much about Pro prize purses but I'm pretty sure you couldn't rock up to many races around the world expecting any more than $20,000 for the win, nor to be paid past 10th place (if you're lucky). 

Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
Triathlon is a stupid sport (even if I do say so myself).  People don't get it.  As a result there is limited mainstream media coverage and not much non-sporting sponsorship.  I could go off on tangents about the marketing of the sport and the need for a reprisal of the Tooheys Blue series of the mid-90's, which would certainly help, but if any Pros got into Triathlon for the money they were kidding themselves.  I think there are about 7 triathletes world wide who make a killing.  The rest get by on what they can and I hope the vast majority remember that they are doing what they love, day in, day out.

People should thank the Hy-Vee Triathlon for putting up the big bucks for as long as they could, and continuing to support "professional" triathletes.

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