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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Quick study shows T&F athlete pay in line with “other non-major sports”
2. Shake-up coming as government gets involved in Milan Cortina 2026
3. FIFA suspends India; what of the U-17 Women’s World Cup?
4. Biathlon federation to consider extending Russian ban
5. Sjostrom sets all-time medals record with Euro women’s 50 Free win
A review of player pay in second-tier U.S. professional leagues demonstrates the level of pay that U.S. track & field athletes can expect; a lot of it has to do with home-game attendance. The Italian government, which is itself in crisis, has moved to take a role in the governance of the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Games in view of not enough action from the organizing committee. FIFA, meanwhile, has suspended India in view of a government takeover and will not hold the women’s U-17 World Cup – scheduled for November – in that country! The Int’l Biathlon Union membership will vote next month on a continued suspension of Russia and Belarus, and on emergency powers for its Executive Board in case of another war. At the European Championships in Rome, Swedish sprint star Sarah Sjostrom set an all-time medal record with her third career win in the 50 m Freestyle.
Quick study shows T&F athlete pay in line with
“other non-major sports”
A limited but fascinating examination of athlete salaries in second-tier U.S. professional leagues shows that many U.S. track & field performers – and perhaps others in Olympic sports – are being paid at about the same level.
NAL Athletics founder George Perry studied the salary data for leagues such as the U.S. Football League (USFL), XFL, National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Premier Hockey Federation (women’s ice hockey), the Premier Lacrosse League and others, as well as attendance figures for home games, in a Tuesday post.
What he found is an interesting correlation between average in-person attendance and player pay:
● 1,000 per game/$15,000 avg. salary: Premier Hockey Federation (20 games/team)
● 4,000 per game/$45,000 avg. salary: U.S. Football League (10 games)
● 4,227 per game/$35,000 avg. salary: Premier Lacrosse League (10 games)
● 7,500 per game/$35,000 avg. salary: National Women’s Soccer League (22 games)
● 18,126 per game/$55,000 avg. salary: XFL (10 games)
In comparison, the recent World Athletics Championships in Eugene drew 146,033 across 16 ticketed sessions or 9,127 on average. The problem is, as Perry points out, that the Worlds were a single show across 10 days, not a season-long promotion:
“If people want track & field athletes to make more money, they don’t need to look for more ways to get more people to attend USAs or Worlds or the Olympics. They need an everything, everywhere, but not all-at-once, spread out over 6-8 month season approach. Two thousand fans at each of 30 events across six cities has greater commercial viability than 60,000 fans for a weekend, not that track & field is getting 60,000 fans on a weekend. That would be the most effective and sustainable way to move track & field athletes up and to the right on the curve their peers in other sports have already defined.”
His charting of leagues, average player salaries and average attendance per game, compared with the Eugene Worlds, showed:
“Using the relationship from the graph above, track & field athletes should average $48,419 per year.”
There are quite a few athletes making that much, but a lot fewer than the 1,720 who showed up in Eugene; at that average, the total payroll for the Worlds would have been $83.28 million! The prize purse at the 2022 Worlds was $8.498 million or 10.2% of that figure. And that $8.498 million was distributed to 392 place winners across 49 events (average $21,679 per placing).
Looking at the number of athletes in the football, hockey and lacrosse leagues above, a true professional U.S. track & field league could be expected to support perhaps 400-500 athletes at maximum, but across how many events? Discounting relays, road and multi-events, the Eugene Worlds had 36 events for men and women combined, so 12-15 per event, max?
Is that a good number? At what pay rate? Not even today’s performers know, since as U.S. superstar women’s 400 m hurdler Sydney McLaughlin said in Eugene of her coach, the legendary Bobby Kersee, “I just do what Bobby tells me.”
It would be interesting to bring the real players together to talk through what a true, professional track & field commercial project would look like: athletes for sure, but also coaches and agents, as they often control the lives of their athletes … whether everyone wants to admit it or not.
And such a conference has no guarantee of success. Ukranian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin did exactly this with his International Swimming League, which debuted in late 2019 with lots of excitement, but only a tepid response from the public. That’s partly due to the format decided on and a lack of promotion; Grigorishin has said he lost $20 million per season for his first three seasons, then had to freeze the ISL program due to the Russian invasion of his homeland. But several hundred swimmers got paid a salary and benefits for three seasons, more than they have ever received before.
World Athletics Council member Willie Banks (USA) – the former world-record holder in the triple jump – said prior to the Eugene Worlds that USA Track & Field was “mulling how to put top performers on the payroll” with “athlete payments [that] would derive from revenues of USATF, corporate sponsors and USATF Foundation grants (which until now has handed out stipends of $5,000 and less).” He envisions a “living wage” payment level of $80,000 or more a year.
How? “I am not at liberty to give you the plan right now,” he said.
Perry, and a lot of others, will be very interested when he does.
Shake-up coming as government gets involved in
Milan Cortina 2026
Italy is in crisis. Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned on 21 July and the Italian Parliament was dissolved the same day, with elections coming on 25 September.
Nevertheless, the Italian government is now getting more directly involved in the development of the 2026 project, decreeing that a revamped organizing committee Board of Directors would be made up of 14 members. Seven would be named by the government, in consultation with the Italian National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee. The other seven will be representatives of the regions where the event will take place, expected to include Lombardy, Veneto, Trento, Bolzano, Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Why? According to the newspaper La Repubblica:
“Since the IOC (24 June 2019) assigned us the Winter Games, too little has been done and some works, among those that are not essential, will never be done. Lost opportunity. But on the rest you have to run.”
The expectation is that chief executive Vincenzo Novari will be replaced, with multiple names already being floated. La Repubblica noted that the domestic sponsorship program has only one company under contract – retailer Esselunga – opining “Now we really have to run, there is no longer the Covid alibi.”
There are expectations of sponsor agreements coming with professional services provider Deloitte, supplement maker Herbalife and staffing giant Randstad, but still well short of the €575 million budget target.
FIFA suspends India; what of the U-17 Women’s World Cup?
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been suspended by FIFA “with immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes.
“The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF Executive Committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs.”
At issue is the takeover of the AIFF by a Committee of Administrators following a Supreme Court decree to hold overdue elections from 2020; said committee chair, retired Justice Anil Dave:
“It is really deplorable that for almost last two years, the body, whose term had already been completed, had continued in an absolutely undemocratic and illegal manner, no action was taken. But when the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed an order to set things right so as to see that a democratically elected body takes charge, and when the CoA and the Sports Ministry were doing their best for the implementation of the Order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the order of the suspension was passed by FIFA.”
This is once again a question of governmental interference, but in this case significantly impacts an upcoming competition:
“The suspension means that the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022, scheduled to take place in India on 11-30 October 2022, cannot currently be held in India as planned. FIFA is assessing the next steps with regard to the tournament and will refer the matter to the Bureau of the Council if and when necessary. FIFA is in constant constructive contact with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India and is hopeful that a positive outcome to the case may still be achieved.”
The U.S., five-time CONCACAF women’s U-17 champions, was eliminated in the group stage in 2012-16-18 after finishing second in 2008. It was drawn into a group for 2022 with India, Morocco and Brazil, but a replacement team for the host will be needed.
The suspension is another blow to sports in India, which saw Narinder Batra, the President of the International Hockey Federation and of the Indian Olympic Committee, resign his posts earlier this year after suspicions of improper use of public funds surfaced. Batra had been leading the charge for India to bid for the 2036 Olympic Games and a future Youth Olympic Games, but those projects are now sidelined.
Biathlon federation to consider extending Russian ban
The International Biathlon Union Executive Board recommended that the suspension of Russian and Belarusian athletes and of their national federations be continued by the IBU Congress in September.
The original ban from 29 March 2022 requires that the status of the suspension be reviewed by the IBU Congress. In specific:
“The IBU Executive Board’s motion proposes that the RBU’s and BiFB’s membership will be suspended until they demonstrate their full commitment to support and promote the purposes and principles of the IBU, for example clearly distancing themselves from the war in Ukraine and ensuring that none of their officials or athletes are actively involved in the Russian military and/or take any part in the war effort.
“The IBU Executive Board will monitor the implementation of the conditions above and may provisionally lift the suspension imposed until the next Congress, if it considers in its absolute discretion that the above-mentioned conditions have been fulfilled.”
The decision of the Congress will have quick impacts, as the IBU World Cup season will begin on 29 November in Kontiolahti, Finland.
The Russian Biathlon Union issued a statement that included:
“We believe that today’s IBU Executive Board voiced recommendations in regard to athletes from Russia and Belarus were hypocritical and politicized, just like their March decisions. They contradict the IBU Constitution and inflict damage upon the global sport of biathlon.”
An IBU constitutional amendment is also being proposed to allow the Executive Board to implement “exceptional protective measures” in case of circumstances beyond the federation’s control, such as war. This is in line with measures discussed at other federations to deal with the situations raised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sjostrom sets all-time medals record with
Euro women’s 50 Free win
With a bronze on Sweden’s Mixed 4×100 m Freestyle relay, Sarah Sjostrom equaled the record for the most career European Championships medals with 26 (16-7-4), held by Russian sprinter Alexander Popov from 1991 to 2004.
On Tuesday at the Foro Italico in Rome, Sjostrom grabbed the record for herself with a 27th career medal, winning the women’s 50 m Free in style, with a world-leading time of 23.91, seven 100ths faster than her winning time at the 2022 Worlds in Budapest.
Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte – the London 2012 gold medalist in the 100 m Breast – continued her comeback with a world-leading 29.44 in the semis of the women’s 50 m Breaststroke, setting a national record, with the no. 4 performance of all-time (and now the no. 3 performer). She won the world title in this event earlier this year in Budapest.
Margherita Panziera (ITA) completed a women’s 100-200 m Backstroke double, winning the shorter race in 59.40.
Hungary’s Kristof Milak completed his 100-200 Fly double, winning the longer race in 1:52.01, a time only he has bettered in 2022. It’s the no. 7 performance in history, with six by Milak, who now has five medals at the 2022 Europeans. Italy’s Niccolo Martinenghi completed the 50-100 m Breast double, winning the 50 m race in a world-leading 26.33, moving him to equal-2nd all-time with Felipe Lima (BRA: 2019).
Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk upset World Champion Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) in the men’s 1,500 m, 14:36.10 to 14:39.79, to defend his title from the 2020 Europeans. It’s the no. 2 performance of the season and moves the Ukrainian to no. 4 all-time.
The swimming events conclude on Wednesday.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Athletics ● At the European Championships in Munich, Olympic 100 m champ Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy finally got back on the winning track.
He won the men’s 100 m in a modest 9.95 (wind: +0.1 m/s), to 9.99 for Britain’s Zharnel Hughes and 10.13 for Jeremiah Azu (GBR). It’s his fastest time of the season and only his third final due to injury; it equals his fourth-fastest time ever, in his first European final.
World 5,000 m Champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) completed his Eugene-Munich double, winning by 13:21.13 to 13:22.98 over Spain’s Mohamed Katir.
Greece’s Tokyo Olympic winner Miltiadis Tentoglu defended his 2018 European title with the big jump he had been looking for all season – a world-leading 8.52 m (27-11 1/2) – in the fourth round. He had two other jumps good enough to win as well. In the decathlon, 2019 World Champion Niklas Kaul (GER) won with 8,545 points over Swiss Simon Ehammer, who set a national record at 8,468. Spain’s Miguel Angel Lopez won the men’s 35 km walk in 2:26:49.
The women’s 100 m wasn’t especially fast, but it was close with Gina Luckenkemper (GER) edging Swiss Mujinga Kambundji, 10.984 to 10.989, with both officially in 10.99 (+0.1). Britain’s Daryll Neita was third in 11.00!
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic, 32, won an amazing sixth European title in the discus at 67.95 m (222-11), just ahead of Germany’s Kristin Prudenz (67.87 m/222-8 lifetime best). Greek Antigoni Drisbioti won the 35 km walk by more than two minutes in 2:47:00.
● Basketball ● On Monday, American star Brittney Griner’s attorneys filed her appeal against the nine-year prison sentence handed down on 4 August. This is a separate move from the continuing discussions between the U.S. government and Russia concerning a possible prisoner exchange.
Griner has been locked up since mid-February and the U.S. government continues to consider her “unlawfully detained.”
● Football ● U.S. Soccer announced the remaining pre-World Cup friendly for its Men’s National Team on 23 September, facing World Cup qualifier Japan in Dusseldorf (GER), to be shown on ESPN2, UniMas and TUDN.
The American men will play Saudi Arabia, also a World Cup team, on 27 September in Murcia, Spain, in its final warm-up match. The first U.S. World Cup match will be against Wales on 21 November.
For our updated, 620-event International Sports Calendar for 2022 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!