Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are the only women among the 100 highest paid athletes

Sports business website Sportico published a list 100 highest paid athletes in the world and makes it a gloomy read for female athletes.

This year we have already experienced a number of unforgettable events in the world of women’s sports. Katie Taylor fought Amanda Serrano in front of a crowded Madison Square Garden. Barcelona broke the record for women’s football attendance of all time on two occasions and Molly McCann produced a a stunning performance at UFC London.

Despite the success of female athletes lately, Sportic’s findings point out that the pay gap between male and female sports stars remains staggering.

Lebron James at the top of the list, with total earnings of $ 126.9 million (£ 103.2 million), while only two women tennis players Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, among the top 100.

Although it took a long break from tennis in 2021, Osaka is in 20th place and reportedly earned $ 53.2 million (£ 43 million) over the past year. The 24-year-old has share capital in more than a dozen brands and has her own skincare range, with support contracts with Nissan, Tag Heuer and Louis Vuitton.

Williams, who is 52nd on the list, has a long-standing partnership with Pepsi, Gatorade and Aston Martin. The 23-time Grand Slam champion also has her own venture capital firm called Serena Ventures.

Both tennis stars make millions. But the same can’t be said for other female sports stars.

GiveMeSport women considers why this is so and what can be done to improve the situation.

Wage inequality is as strong as ever

The number of women among the top 100 earners is actually the same as last year, and then Osaka and Williams appeared. In 2020, only Serena was on the list.

Interestingly, when comparing the sports that make up the majority of athletes in the top 100, 13 are football players and 36 are basketball stars. Yet globally acclaimed footballers like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe don’t even come close to the list. Equally, WNBA icons, including Sue Bird and Candace Parker, are also not visible.

It’s not new that male sports stars are paid far more than their female counterparts, but it’s still eloquent that despite the huge growth in women’s football in the last 12 months, equal pay is still a long way off.

Naomi Osaka at the Miami Open

Indeed, there have been a number of stated commitments by sports bodies, arguing that they are trying to bridge the gap in equality, although some sports have done so more effectively than others.

A BBC survey from 2021 showed that up to 83% of sports now offer the same amount of money for men and women. But for those 17% who do not, the difference is not a faction, but a huge one.

Not only salaries and profits are included Sportico’s scales. Sponsorships are also taken into account and are generally more lucrative for the vast majority of athletes on the list. Boxing star Canelo Alvarez is the only person in the top five who has earned more through winnings than sponsorship.

In this way, some might argue that the lack of sponsorship is what prevents female athletes from making big money. However, this can only be traced back to the same problem of neglecting women’s sport.

If there is a lack of coverage, then there is less exposure for female athletes and thus less potential for sponsorship.

Serena Williams

Why only tennis players?

It is no coincidence that tennis players are the only athletes who perform Sportico’s scales.

Although men’s and women’s tennis are far from equal, they are still far closer to parity than any other sport.

All four big Grand Slams are played at the same time and in the same place for the players every year. With the exception of the later stages of the event, fans mostly buy tickets for certain pitches and not for certain matches. The cash prize for the respective competitions is also the same.

Naomi Osaka

The result of this: tennis players have more exposure, more recognition, more attention and ultimately more potential for sponsorship than all other athletes on the planet.

Interestingly, there are actually more tennis players Sportico’s list than there are male tennis stars. Roger Federer is eighth, but there is no place for Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.

It just proves that tennis players are equal to men, and the global reach of women’s play goes just as far.

Will we ever see other athletes on the list?

Osaka and Williams are undoubtedly currently the two most famous athletes on the planet, but is there a possibility that others will join the famous top 100 club in the near future?

Obviously, the most likely candidates are other tennis players. Britain’s Emma Raducanu stormed to win the US Open last year and was immediately overwhelmed by support agreements. The world’s new tennis player, Iga Swiatek, is also now taking women’s tennis to new heights.

However, there is some potential in other sports as well. Taylor and Serrano reportedly earned seven-figure salaries for their fight in New York last month, and a rematch is close to a deal.

Emma Raducanu from Great Britain in Indian Wells

Given the success in the first competition and the growing number of two fighters, both were easily able to earn huge sums of money and should not be satisfied with anything less than what they received before.

Elsewhere, many other big events are coming up this year. Euro 2022 starts in July, as does Wimbledon.

Women’s sport is undoubtedly on the rise, but the real sign of its growth will be to see more and more names on lists like this. Hopefully, Sportic’s 2023 rankings will be different.


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