When we think of professional sport, we instinctively think of football players, tennis players or Formula 1 racers, some of whom earn millions a month. As a result, the phrase “professional athletes are overpaid” naturally comes out. And yet it’s not quite true, even completely false, because when you look closely, lots of disciplines bring almost nothing to the athletes who nevertheless practice them professionally. In 2016, of the 400 French athletes presented at the Olympics, 4 out of 10 received less than €500 per month for the activity they represented, as explained in this article from Le Point dating from May 2016.
In short, we let you discover 10 disciplines that will put you on the straw if you get serious about it. Honestly, stick to football, it’s better.
As you might have guessed, canoeing is not the most popular sport in France, and professionals are necessarily suffering from it. Emilie Fer, the first French gold medalist at the London Olympics in 2012, then world champion in 2013, explained it well: her track record is not what brings her a good meal in the evening. Several times the sportswoman wondered if she would not be forced to end her career to enter the world of work, because the income from canoeing is equivalent to that of a small job, for lack of sponsors and d aid from the federation.
We therefore strongly advise against this sport, it is better to risk your life in formula 1 “live fast, die young” as they say.
We see fencing as a big town sport because the license is expensive, as well as the equipment, but as a general rule, unless you are Laura Flessel and you retrain in politics, this sport does not not bring in masses.
Astrid Guyart, 2013 world vice-champion in foil team, has a job as an engineer alongside her sport, while her training takes up almost 100% of her time, which is not very practical. The same goes for Alex Fava, considered an “amateur” sportsman despite having won the French championships 4 times, and participated in the European and world championships. A big investment of time because of the training which however does not pay and puts these high level athletes in financial difficulty.
3. The long sprint and especially the hurdles
As you will see throughout this top, athletics is a very special sport that can make big names rich (Lavillenie for example) but put others in a big mess.
This was the case of Phara Anacharsis, European champion in the 4×400 m relay and silver medalist in the 400 m hurdles. The athlete had explained that she was a part-time salesperson at Decathlon for a salary of €700 per month because her sport did not allow her to meet her needs.
Always a discipline of athletics (and it won’t be the last), when we think of the decathlon we think of Kevin Mayer, but not everyone is a world record holder, and the others may not be housed in the same sign.
This is the case of Gael Quérin for example, who is part of the French decathlon team and who has participated several times in the European championships and the world championships. The practice of his sport costs him more money than he earns. Travel, equipment, training time, these are sums less on his salary and preparation for the Olympics costs him, for example, 175,000 €. The sum was partly covered by the federation but he still had €5,000 to pay, which he had to finance with a call for donations.
If badminton is ultra popular in Asia, it is much less so in France, and this is reflected in the salaries of athletes. In 2014, Brice Leverdez, the French number 1 in the discipline had to appeal for donations to finance his season, with the particular objective of participating in the 2016 Olympics. A lack of private partners justifies this lack of funds according to the athlete who preferred to be towards his public, because his 6 titles of champions of France were not enough to finance his place at the Olympic Games.
6. Table tennis
You’re going to tell me that I purposely choose sports that everyone jerks off to, but that’s precisely why these poor pro athletes have trouble finishing their end of the month.
This is still the case with ping pong, which like badminton, is highly developed in Asia but much less so in France. In 2018, the women’s team of French table tennis players earned about a minimum wage per month, for hours and hours of training (obviously the men earn a little more than the women, even if the sums are not crazy for them either ). Audrey Zarif, one of the table tennis players for the France team, explained that she had to pay for her travel herself, as well as her accommodation and food. Frankly at this price there as much to give up any principle and to make a trade of vicious.
You guessed it, me too, curling in France, it does not pay the masses (unlike in Canada for example where the sport is very developed). In 2020 the player of the French team Raphaël Mathieu explained that the practice of curling did not allow him to support himself. Even if the costs of its competitions are borne by the federation, the lack of sponsors, and the lack of private funding mean that there is not much to gain in this sport in France.
8. The discus throw
Last discipline of athletics which we are going to tell you about, the discus throw. Take for example Mélina Robert-Michon, silver medalist at the Olympic Games and just 20 times champion of France. Well know that with all her titles Melina earned around 1300€ per month, so not an astronomical sum, especially when you are a mother of two children.
1300 € is what she earned by being an employee of the French Athletics Federation, not counting the bonuses she could receive for her different titles, but hey, we are far from the salaries of footballers.
9. Water polo
In 2016, Michael Bodegas ex-captain of the France Waterpolo team explained that he was going to leave the France team to go to Italy because he was having trouble making a living from his sport. Indeed, in Italy, a professional water polo player can expect to earn between 10,000 and 45,000 euros per month, compared to approximately between 2,500 and 4,000 euros for a player from the French team. We can live on it for sure, but here we are not buying Ferraris with it.
10. Hockey (on ice and on field)
Last sport on this list, once again a very popular sport in North America, but not at all in France. While in 2020, the French field hockey team was very close to qualifying for the Olympics, all the members who made it up were considered amateur athletes, and for the most part had a parallel activity. A not very profitable choice in the end.