Money can't buy you love or titles

Posted: April 18, 2014

MONEY CAN buy a lot of things, but apparently a guaranteed championship in professional sports is not one of them.

The results of a survey conducted by sportsintelligence.com and ESPN The Magazine, released yesterday, showed that the soccer club Manchester City FC, of the English Premier League, is currently the highest-paying franchise in the world.

While Man City's overall payroll of $202 million ranks behind the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, the average player income of $8.1 million makes it the winner.

The "Global Salary Survey" was calculated from base player salaries of the current or most recently completed season. It excludes things like endorsements and performance bonuses.

Still, for all the money Manchester City shells out, it is a longshot to win the EPL (seven points behind Liverpool and five behind Chelsea with five to play); flamed out against Barcelona by an aggregate of 4-1 in the Round of 16 in Europe's Champions League; and lost to Wigan in the quarterfinals of England's FA Cup.

It looks like the only silverware City will earn this season is the lightly regarded Capital One Cup. In fact, unless MC rallies while Liverpool and Chelsea both collapse, it will be the only trophy won over the last two seasons.

That is not much return on being the best-paying team in sports the past two seasons.

The Yankees and Dodgers will be in the mix for the 2014 World Series, but neither is a prohibitive favorite to win it.

In fact, of the franchises in the Top 10, only reigning Champions League and Bundesliga titleholder Bayern Munich, which ranks seventh, would be considered to be the best team in its sport.

After Manchester City, the Yankees and Dodgers, the rest of the Top 10 is Real Madrid CF of Spain's La Liga, Barcelona FC (La Liga), the Brooklyn Nets, Bayern, Manchester United (EPL), the Chicago Bulls and Chelsea (EPL).

Of that group, only Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United are the current title holders in their top domestic leagues.

According to sportingintelligence, the 2014 report considers 294 teams, 15 leagues and 12 countries across seven sports, soccer, baseball, basketball, football (which is referred to as gridiron), cricket, ice hockey and Aussie Rules football.

For those who refuse to look outside the borders of the United States for sports, six of the top 10 are Europe-based soccer clubs.

With the average salary of $4.96 million, the cricket club Mumbai Indians was ranked 24th.

The Phillies are the first city franchise to show up, with an average salary of $5,791,002 that ranks 14th. Considering they are coming off a 73-win season, a drop from 11th in the world and 5.5 percent decrease in salary seems appropriate. Their total payroll of $179,521,056 is sixth overall.

The Flyers are 79th with an average of $2,864,519; the Sixers, who paid an average of $2,862,461 to tank the 2013-14 season, were next at 80th. By purging the roster, they dropped 53 spots from when they were 27th in 2012-13.

The Eagles are 135th with a number of $2,138,436. Of course, that will change next season with the big-ticket departures of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson.

The Union, with its average of $134,364, rounds out the locals, coming in 266 of the 295 clubs considered.

Even though the NFL is the king of sports in America, its hard salary cap kept its first team from showing up until the five-win Minnesota Vikings checked in at 115th.

Eight cricket teams made the list before the Vikings.

"A lot of people think because the NFL has great ratings, the players must be the wealthiest," sportingintelligence editor Nick Harris said in the survey release story. "A list like this over time shows the disconnect."

To be fair, you have to remember that the NFL has the highest number of active players, so its average will be skewed. Also, a lot of the money NFL players earn comes in the form of bonuses that skew the base salary downward. NFL players are still getting paid. Almost every team ranks in the top 75 in the total wage bill category, with budgets over $100 million. In total wages, the clubs ranked between 20 and 60 were almost all from the NFL.

The reading of the categories is important because the rankings can shift depending on average salary or total budget.

So, while the NBA allocating about $2 billion in salary to 441 players makes it the best-paying league in the world with an average salary of more than $4.5 million, the smaller rosters keep the salary budget lower.

The first NBA team to show up in total salary is Brooklyn ($102.2 million) at 51st, followed by the Knicks ($88 million) at 67th.

The Chicago Blackhawks ($2.9 million average) are the only reigning champion in the five major leagues in the United States that has the highest average salary.

In the NFL, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks were second to the Vikings in average salary and total salary budget.

The two-time reigning NBA champion Miami Heat, who are favored to win a third straight title, are 16th overall in average salary, below the Nets, Bulls and Knicks. New York missed the playoffs, and it would take major miracles for Brooklyn or Chicago to win the 2014 NBA Finals.

The Boston Red Sox ranked 11th while winning the 2013 World Series. Just like last year, the Sox, who are 15th in 2014, have an average salary lower than the Yankees, Dodgers, Tigers and Phillies.

Only three teams are ranked lower than Sporting Kansas City, which currently holds the MLS Cup. The Union is not one of them.

So, if sports championships are bliss, money can't always buy you happiness.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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