Not all sports are created equal. This much is self-evident by anyone who’s ever been roped into a long conversation or diatribe about why any given pastime should be treated with equal severity and seriousness as anything else in the orthodoxy. But it remains particularly true when it comes to the vast differences in the prize purses between the various sports played across the world. If you’re looking for a localized example, look no further than the money awarded to an Olympian competing outside the games, then contrast that with the earnings for one of the “major” sports athletes. There’s a significant shift, as it were. One that’s been corroborated by the BBC, who examined more than 50 international sports and questioned their governing bodies about how much money each was paying out for victory at the highest level of competition. They focused on the inequalities in winnings between men and women — which allowed us to determine which sports have the largest opportunities for financial gain. Here are the top five, with the caveat that we have converted the amounts into dollars from their original currency (the pound).
5. Cycling — $577,096
To be specific, this is the payout provided to the overall winner of the Tour De France, which is far and away cycling’s biggest event. Despite the ebb and flow of mountain biking’s popularity, road biking — the version with the skinny tires and the copious swaths of spandex — has stayed consistently in the public eye since the introduction of the venerable racing series in 1903. The prize pool is more than 60 times the size of a first place finish in an individual road race.
4. Golf — $1.76 million
While the biggest payout in golf happens during the PGA Championship — the tournament from where we derived our figures — the rest of the field is similarly monied, with wins at other prestigious tournaments (like The Open or The U.S. Open) also eclipsing $1 million in prize payouts. Part and parcel when you have a sport that’s so explicitly marketed towards those with disposable income, we suppose.
3. Tennis — $3.05 million
Note: We’re talking about men’s tennis here (women’s tennis doesn’t pay nearly as well). But for the guy who’s lucky and good enough to win one of the four annual Grand Slam tournaments, the rewards are plentiful, and the prize money isn’t too bad, either.
2. Cricket — $4.01 million
Cricket is the most like American football out of all the games on the list — if you’re not raised with an education in how the game works, you’re going to have a hell of a time figuring out why things aren’t working like they ought to be. Also like American football, cricket has a ton of money in it, but it’s even more popular, which is why their World Cup has such a significant cash prize attached to it (which is in addition to the players’ salaries, of course).
1. Soccer — $38.47 million
No, that’s not the payout for winning the FIFA World Cup (which is valued at “only” $35.27M) — that’s the prize for the winner of the Premier League, which is England’s most visible and prestigious level of professional soccer competition. You probably guessed that soccer was going to top this list, since it is the single most ubiquitous sport on the planet. For the rest of the BBC’s findings, click here.