The highest paying sports events in the world

By Captain Thomsen on 27 Jul 2015

It's no secret that elite athletes can earn big money by winning major sports tournaments, with talented competitors becoming multi-millionaires virtually overnight. However, many tournaments also reward competitors handsomely just for showing up. Here's a look at the ten highest paying sports events on the planet.

1. Football - The UEFA Champions League

Mesut Ozil during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal and Napoli

Europe's most glamorous regional club tournament offers the biggest overall cash payout in international sport. The club winning the Champions League final earns €57.2 million in cumulative prize money. In total, a prize fund of €1.3 billion is available to competing teams as of the 2017-18 season. These figures dwarf the FIFA World Cup, which paid out a relatively miserly $324 million to competing teams in 2014.


2. Motor Racing - Formula One

Mark Webber in the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Europe Valencia Street Circuit
© efecreata photography

Formula One racing is the most expensive sports to compete in. It also offers one of the largest prize funds. The overall prize pool for each season is estimated at roughly $860 million as of 2018. This is distributed according to the results of each race, as well as the final season standings.


3. Boxing - High-profile fights

A sign at the MGM Grand advertises the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight
© kobby_dagan

Boxing is one of the most lucrative sports, with world championship title fights generating hundreds of millions of dollars in pay-per-view broadcasting revenue. For example, Floyd Mayweather earned a stunning $180 million for his fight against Manny Pacquiao in 2015's "Fight of the Century."


4. Baseball - The World Series

Derek Jeter in a game vs the Mets
© dleindec

Surprisingly, the World Series pays out significantly more prize money than other major league sports in the United States, with an estimated prize pool of $68 million. The winner of the World Series pockets a purse of $28 million - approximately double the amount paid to the winners of the NFL Super Bowl. This amount is variable though, as it is partly based on gate receipts over the course of the season.


5. Tennis - Wimbledon

The Wimbledon championship flag
© Leonard Zhukovsky

The US Open used to be the highest paying tennis tournament, but Wimbledon is now the most lucrative tennis event on the sporting calendar. $31.6 million in prize money is shared among the competitors in the various divisions of the tournament. The winners of the men's and women's single finals each earn just in excess of $2.2 million in prize money.


6. Golf - The FedEx Cup

Tiger Woods tees off
© Debby Wong

Golf's richest event isn't one of the four Majors, but rather the PGA Tour's season finale, the FedEx Cup. To win the FedEx Cup, a golfer must accumulate points while playing in the four FedEx Cup playoffs - The Barclays Championship, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Champions and the Tour Championship. The highest points scorer at the conclusion of the Tour Championship walks away with a $10 million payout. The overall FedEx Cup prize fund, shared among competing players, is a whopping $35 million.


7. Horse Racing - The Dubai World Cup Night

Animal Kingdom wins Dubai World Cup 2013
© Sakuragirin

The Dubai World Cup Night is officially the richest single day event in thoroughbred racing, with about $27.25 million paid out in prize money during a single day. Six Grade 1 races and a number of Group 2 races are run during the course of the event, which culminates in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. 


8. NFL - The Super Bowl

Cowboys Stadium 50 Yard Line
© bellafotosolo

Although the Super Bowl is by far the highest profile sports event in the United States, it's not the best paid sports event in the country. The winning team in the Super Bowl is paid around $9-10 million in prize money, which is paid out as bonuses to each player on the roster. Due to the large size of the competing squads, players tend to earn surprisingly modest bonuses if they win the championship.


9. Rugby - Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup 2011 - South Africa Vs Fiji
© PictureThis Photography

The Rugby World Cup has no specific prize fund. Instead competing unions are paid out according to the overall profit made by the International Rugby Board (IRB) once the tournament has been completed. So rather than being paid prize money, players are offered special contract fees by their own unions, including bonuses for winning matches at the tournament. These bonuses can mount up quickly. For example, the England team will earn an estimated $10.85 million if it wins the 2019 World Cup.


10. Cricket - Cricket World Cup

Michael Clarke batting

The Cricket World Cup has been steadily increasing its prize fund, which now stands at $10,25 million. This might seem modest in comparison to the huge payouts for top events in other sports, but bear in mind that with the relatively small sides of competing squads, players can earn sizeable bonuses. The team that wins the title is awarded a purse to the value of $3,975,000.