Do leaders of sport’s not-for-profit organisations justify their superstar salaries?

A shade under $250,000 is not a bad way to be compensated for ‘volunteering’ in one of sport’s most desired jobs.


In April, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach had his pay-packet revealed by the IOC’s Ethics Commission for the first time in Olympic history ‘with a view to ensuring total transparency’ for the future. It also said Executive Board members and commission heads receive $900 per day to cover expenses, while regular IOC members get $450 a day.

It was a PR masterstroke by the wealthy Olympic Family in the character of Bach’s Agenda 2020 reform movement and was welcomed by all corners of the sports industry.


Across the Atlantic, not many can compare, in terms of salary, to Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL – another not- for-profit organisation.

Last year, it was revealed via the NFL’s tax returns that Goodell took home a $44 million annual salary, and has accrued approximately $123 million in his first seven years as commissioner. Only five of the NFL’s current superstars, including Tom Brady, could match that earning rate.

FINA, the Switzerland-based International Swimming Federation, quickly followed in the IOC’s footsteps by stating its top officials, including the president, take no salary. Officials do, however, receive $400 per day when travelling on business, while travel expenses are also covered. It added that FINA currently employs 32 people, 11 of which work part-time.

Sports governing bodies across the world are ever-increasingly being run like businesses – seen by nearly everyone in the industry as a good thing – but given they don’t make a profit, and reinvest all surpluses back into the sport, is it fair and moral for their leaders to be receiving similar salaries to CEOs of blue-chip businesses?

Should other international federations follow the IOCs and FINAs lead?

Will Lloyd, CEO of GlobalSportsJobs shares his view:


You pay the market rate for top talent. If that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, then fine. If that is $44 million a year, then that is also fine.

Fundamentally, sports federations need to compete in the open market to attract the best possible candidates. Federations then need to be answerable to their boards, who will measure their salary against KPIs and board objectives.

Obviously, there will be discrepancies between what some not-for-profit organisations can pay their CEOs, and subsequently they have to operate within the confines of what they can afford. However, we have to remember that we are talking about running high-performance, highly-efficient sporting organisations.

To achieve objectives, you need the best person you can attract, and that requires skilled individuals. The sooner people recognise that international federations in particular need to behave like highly-efficient organisations, the sooner they will start to accept the rates that their CEOs are being paid.

I don’t think there would be any harm in more organisations being transparent about what they pay their chief executives. At the end of the day it is a public body, run with public money, and it should be shared.

Also, people shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of earning a lot of money. Look at what has happened over the past 20 years: in the 1990s job vacancies in the sports industry used to total about five on the back of SportBusiness International, and now we have around 350 posted on our website every month.

That’s led to greater transparency as everyone wants to know if sport can provide the market rate, whether that is at CEO level or middle management.

We are getting closer to parity with other industries and that means we are attracting the sort of talent sport needs to progress.

This article can be found in the May edition of SportBusiness International magazine or online by clicking here.


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