Making money from sport
Want your child to be a big-time athlete? Before you force little Jimmy outside for another two hours of practice, wait a moment.
Professional sport in New Zealand is far from a level playing field, as our Olympic heroes in London know all too well and public adulation rather than financial reward may be the best you can hope for.
The vast majority are actually amateurs, or semi-pro. They have day jobs. They study. They scrounge together cash from grants, charitable trusts and sponsorships.
Sport New Zealand provides some direct support to athletes each year based on their performance at pinnacle events like the Olympics, but it's not much to get by on.
If your rowing crew misses out on the bronze medal by a whisker, you might as well be flipping burgers for all the money it earns you.
The best in the world get $60,000 for a gold medal, while members of a team sport get just $35,000.
If Olympic glory is enough to make it all worthwhile, all power to you. But getting paid to play sport -and paid well- is a different ball game altogether.
Here we've ranked the top eight professional sports to show aspiring amateurs what they could make if they turn it into a career. (NB: golf is not included as NZ Golf did not get back to us with information).
Kiwi dads with failed All Black aspirations tend to pace up and down the sidelines, living vicariously through their sons. They're probably on the right track.
"Team sports with professional leagues offer the greatest amount of paid, full-time opportunities," says Careers NZ.
Rugby union and league codes are paid and professional, as are some offshoots like the Sevens.
Semi-pro ITM Cup players have a salary cap of $60,000 for the season, with a minimum retainer of $15,000.
Those that are also Super Rugby professionals earn between $70,000 and $180,000, and nab another $7,500 for every week they pull on the black jersey.
That's an extra $120,000 across a 16-week season, creating a total base salary of $360,000 for an All Black.
From there, the sky's the limit on the retainers paid to keep star performers on side. Captain Richie McCaw, for example, earns well over half a million a year.
And of course, endorsement opportunities abound. You can't turn on the telly without seeing a sportsman hawking a heat pump or demonstrating the virtues of deodorant.
Dan Carter, for example, surely has the most valuable crotch in the country. Being the face (and groin) of Jockey is estimated to have boosted his total income to more than $2 million a year.
New Zealand's 120 pro cricketers are on a very good wicket indeed. Many of them are hitting it for six figures, and a few make a million dollars a year.
A good cricketer might earn somewhere in the ballpark of $300,000, with roughly half coming from retainers and half from match fees.
And when they're not required to attend to their local duties, most can wander off elsewhere to earn some extra pocket money.
NZ Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills says there are eight kiwi cricketers in the Indian Premier League earning anywhere from an additional $50,000 to $1 million.
Others play county cricket in the UK, or pull in a minimum of $20,000 for a few week's work in the Aussie Big Bash league.
"It's now a genuine career pathway for young people," says Mills. If they start young, he says, a cricket player has 15-20 years before they're over the hill.
Yachting tacks its way up the list by simple virtue of the mind-blowing salaries of expats like Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth, estimated to be worth $5m to $15m a year.
Team New Zealand employs 20 professional sailors here, crewing for the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.
Crew earn an estimated $1,500 a day, and the skippers are likely on substantially more than that.
The problem is, it's all or nothing. At the next step down, and in less popular sailsports, it's all amateur.
There're a few retainers handed down to groom the young up-and-comers, and a few nominal cash prizes, but that's it.
If you're able to crew one of the floating Emirates billboards, then you're in the money.
Meanwhile, the 15 amateur sailors at the Olympics right now don't even have a main sponsor, much less a fat retainer.
The beautiful game is immensely popular worldwide, but slips down the list because it has little support in New Zealand.
We've only got one fully professional club, the Wellington Phoenix, which competes in the Australian league. It would look pretty silly playing against itself.
The 'Nix are probably not at risk of hitting the A$2.48m salary cap, with players estimated by one source to be earning $50,000-$100,000.
Curiously, All Whites games aren't worth a whole lot either. Players are paid a modest fee to come together for a few days before returning to their respective clubs.
Once you go offshore, you start earning the big bucks. Premier league player Ryan Nelsen earns roughly $50,000 per week and Winston Reid at least $20,000.
At a much more modest level, a few kiwis playing in the Major league soccer are on US$45-70,000 (NZ$56-87k) a season, and some women are making a decent living playing in Germany and Scandinavia.
NZ Football's Jamie Scott is hopeful that as more Nelsens and Reids come through, the professional ranks will swell.
"There are increasing opportunities for young players," he says. "There's also a pretty well-worn path through the American university system, and I guess the chance to get a free education at the end of that, no matter what happens, is pretty valuable as well."
New Zealand sportswomen would be justified in feeling hard done by. The best netballers in the country earn roughly ten times less than their rugby counterparts.
Many are mums, part or full-time workers or students, says NZ Netball Players' Association manager Tim Lythe.
"The reality is for the money available, players need to supplement their income."
The 60 players in the ANZ Championship are on retainers starting from a measly $12,000.
No-one will reveal what the most well-paid player gets but each franchise has to stick to a total $300,000 salary cap for the team.
The 15 or so Silver Ferns are on additional contracts that net them $15,000 to $40,000, with a match fee of about $1,000 for each game they play.
That means a top netballer is landing about $100,000, plus any cash she can make on the side from endorsing whiteware and low-cholesterol sandwich spreads.
There are probably five New Zealand athletes who could make enough money from the sport to class themselves as pros, says Athletics NZ Sport Manager Brett Addison.
"Other athletes pick up various amounts of cash from events overseas, but it wouldn't be nearly enough to live on."
Sport NZ High Performance funding goes directly towards athlete preparation, training and competition expenses, making prize money and sponsorships all the more important.
On alternating years, World Track & Field prizes max out at US$60,000 (NZ$75k) and World Indoor at US$40,000 (NZ$50k).
Then there's the Diamond League, which pays as much as US$10,000 for first place at seven meets, and a bonus US$40,000 for the season winner.
While prizes are the same across the athletic disciplines, they differ when it comes to pull power with sponsors.
A top sprinter like Usain Bolt has a far bigger profile -and so earns much more- than a champion shotputter, like our very own Valerie Adams.
Pro tennis isn't all strawberries and champagne either. Tennis NZ says there are about 13-15 professional kiwi players, but only one of them is actually making a decent living.
Women have to be ranked around number 100 in the world just to break even with coaching and travel expenses, and men have to be in the top 130.
Marina Erakovic, in the top 50, is the only kiwi pro to make the grade.
The massive paydays for the likes of the Federers and Nadals simply don't reflect what most pros earn further down the ladder, grinding their way from tour to tour.
Don't be fooled by the massive winnings of motorsport legend Scott Dixon, either- they're well out of reach for most.
"Essentially, there are no professionals in New Zealand," says Brian Budd, general manager at Motorsport NZ.
"Even if you make it internationally, it's a long time before you make any money out of it."
Dixon spent years competing with financial support from back home, and was only able to repay it once he started winning consistently.
Every up-and-coming petrolhead survives on either their day job, or whatever money they can cobble together from charities and sponsors.
Which, with the exception of rugby and cricket, is a common theme just about everywhere you look.
"Like any sport, it's getting harder and harder," says Budd. "In this current environment, it's bloody difficult."
- © Fairfax NZ News