State of Pay: The financial challenges between State vs International professional sport contracts

State of Pay: The financial challenges between State vs International professional sport contracts

There is no doubt that nearly every domestic cricketer’s dream is to don the Baggy Green and turn out for the Australian Cricket Team. In fact, if you ask most kids growing up in Australia what they wanted to be, an Australian cricketer was probably high up the list for most of them. It is fairly well understood that international cricketers get looked after financially. But what about the Sheffield Shield cricketer? The player working hard at State level to one day hopefully get the call-up to the national side. And what about financial management for cricketers in general?

With modern-day cricket and the incarnation of tournaments such as the Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League, domestic cricketers these days can certainly earn a pretty penny without ever realistically playing for their country. But given the extremely fickle nature of these fast-paced forms of the game, financial opportunity can fluctuate widely.

So, whilst it may not be quite as difficult as it once was, careful consideration must be given to ensuring these cricketers stay financially viable, whilst pursuing their dream as a professional sportsperson.

There and back again

Ed Cowan, a former Test batsman who has played 13 seasons of domestic cricket, initially with the NSW Blues followed by 7 seasons in Tasmania and now back at NSW, is one such player. Ed did scale the heights to the very top, playing Test cricket for Australia, however, he has also experienced the years of sacrifice in State cricket to get there and then returning to State cricket once his contract with the Australian cricket team finished.

I caught up with Ed to discuss the challenges and opportunities he has faced in managing himself financially, going from a State cricketer to Test player and back to State cricketer.

“When you make the Test team you’re probably earning about 10 times what you’re earning as a State cricketer so it’s a significant jump up. Coming out of the Test team you get a little bit of a shock, but you’ve got a few more experience points so you come back on a decent State contract. It can be hard and you have got to be ready if you do go up and down, your income is going to fluctuate significantly.”

Asked about what he learnt from the experience, Ed expressed the need to be a bit more pragmatic with your approach, to not simply go out and start the spending and that his years as a State cricketer, perhaps not earning huge sums of money, ultimately helped in how he managed himself financially.

“The irony is that you become really good at managing your finances when you’re not earning much money. When I made the Test team, I was like, what a great opportunity to set myself up for 10 years rather than let’s go buy a new $200,000 car. I was still cruising around in a $10,000 Subaru. There was a massive opportunity that wasn’t going to last forever to set yourself up, not for life as that would be an unrealistic assumption, but certainly, I was always eyeing off what happens at the end of my cricket career.”

Better people make better athletes

Ed has also founded his own premium coffee company, with former Tasmanian team-mate, Steve Cazzulino. Ed talked about both the pros and cons of a professional sportsman in establishing their own business, whilst still playing.

There are so many advantages of running your own business, particularly as sportsmen are used to a pretty flexible lifestyle with being able to manage your own time. My advice would be that – having not done this myself – I would have liked maybe 2 or 3 years learning from or working in a small to medium-sized business.”

It can be tough to find balance as a professional sportsperson, but can pursuing off-field endeavours help drive on-field performance? Ed is also studying a Masters in Applied Finance.

“Cricket is a game that doesn’t always happen for you, especially when you’re opening the batting, so if you have a bad couple of weeks, it can be a really dark place and I’ve seen a lot of young cricketers go through it. So to have that outlet, that release of something else to focus on and then giving all of your attention and energy to cricket when you’re at cricket, really helps.”

Juggling commitments to family and business

On top of this, Ed has a young family; wife, Virginia and daughter, Romy, who is 4. It requires a certain amount of time management as well as not taking the easy option, to ensure there is enough time for family, study, business and of course, cricket.

“It’s tricky; I think if you asked my wife she’d probably always say she’d want more time with me because she probably is the one that is being neglected. I think it’s a realisation that professional sport does take a lot of time, particularly cricket. There are 12-13 hour days on game days for 50 days a year. I might train 150-200 days a year but those training sessions are 3-4 hours in a day.

“So in between training sessions, if you really wanted to do something, you’ll find time for it. You see so much time-wasting. Yes, you do need to recover and take time out, but if your time management becomes efficient you find hours in the day that you didn’t know existed.”

A little effort goes a long way

Whilst still hoping to play for a few more season yet, retirement is certainly something Ed has been preparing for and a lot of financial decisions have been made with that in mind. Ed passed on some advice to younger sportspeople in helping them prepare better for life after sport.

“It’s a question of educating yourself. There are a lot of guys who I’ve played cricket with who have no formal education, who didn’t finish school, didn’t go to uni, but they’ve gone out of their way to learn financial literacy. It takes is a little bit of effort to upskill yourself, to get to know the basics of accounting or small business management or property investment. You don’t need to be an expert, but I think you need to be on the page that the experts are on and then you can make your own decisions as to what kind of advice you want to take on.”

For further insights and lessons, listen to the full interview below:

Patrick Wright

Patrick (Paddy) is the Head of Partner Relations at The Final Whistle. A Sydney boy through-and-through, he has spent close to 9 years living in London from two different stints. He has a background in Financial Markets, but is now a student of Nutrition and Strength & Conditioning.

Interests: career transition, nutrition, strength & conditioning, surfing, most sports, education, travel, connecting with people, talking.

First article: September 2016

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