Anthony McLennan
4 minute read
15 May 2019
10:00 am

Home comforts in the PSL may be outweighing overseas ambitions

Anthony McLennan

While there's a potential fortune to be made for South African football stars overseas, for many, the competitive salaries offered in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) means it makes more sense to stay at home.

Khama Billiat of Kaizer Chiefs (Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix)

South African soccer players’ salaries are rarely revealed.

However, it’s widely reported that Kaizer Chiefs’ Zimbabwean forward Khama Billiat is the top domestic earner with a monthly salary of around R500 000, or an annual income of R6 million. That figure is believed to be after tax deductions, and before any bonuses are added in.

Other reported top earners in the PSL include Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune (R480 000) and Mamelodi Sundowns attacker Anthony Laffor (R380 000), while Elias Pelembe (Bidvest Wits), Bernard Parker (Chiefs), Dean Furman (SuperSport United), Siyanda Xulu (Maritzburg United), Oupa Manyisa (Sundowns) and George Lebese (Sundowns) are all reportedly in the R250 000 – R350 000 per month bracket. These are all pre-tax amounts.

Percy Tau, currently on loan in Belgium at second tier club Union Saint-Gilloise, but on the books of English Premier League team Brighton Hove & Albion, is reportedly paid £30 000 per week (£120 000 per month) by the British club, making him the best compensated South African player.

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His yearly salary, before tax, would be close to R25 million, or roughly half that after tax. That’s about R12 million versus Billiat’s R6 million.

The next highest earner is thought to be another Bafana Bafana international, Keagan Dolly, who receives around £35 000 (R645 000) per month from French top flight club Montpellier: plus-minus R7.7 million a year; but before tax.

Another Bafana player in France’s Ligue 1, Bongani Zungu, is on approximately R400 000 per month at Amiens – a little less than R5 million per year before tax.

Also based in the French top flight are Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg) and Lebogang Phiri (Guingamp). Their salaries have not been publicised, but could well be in the region of Dolly and Zungu’s, possibly more in the goal-scoring Mothiba’s case.

According to a report by the Globalsportssalaries website, the French Ligue 1 is the fifth best compensated division in the world, behind only England, Spain, Italy and Germany.

And the average French footballer salary is R18 million per year, way more than double that what the South Africans are earning.

And therein perhaps lies the crux of the issue; when European clubs turn to African players, they understand well the economics involved, and are generally looking for bargain buys.

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That still works for a South African in a country like France.

But in places like Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden – which have competitive leagues and are usually less stringent with work permit regulations – the average quickly drops.

Of late, Portugal has become a popular destination for South African players. The Primeira Liga is rated as the 15th best paid league in world football, with an average pay of £271 728 per year (just over R5 million).

But because players arriving directly from Africa are often being paid less than the league average, and assuming a player is not at one of the bigger clubs in Portugal, a yearly salary for a South African will more likely come in at the R1 – R2 million region (before tax).

Which more or less equates to around R100 000 – R150 000 a month – an amount which is not overly difficult for a good player to earn back home in the PSL.

By comparison, lists the average annual salary in the Netherlands at R4.5 million, while in Denmark it’s R2.2 million and in Sweden, it’s R1.6 per annum. South Africa’s PSL comes in at number 39 on the list at just under R900 000 per year before tax.

That’s what an average PSL footballer will earn. But take that same average player to Denmark or Sweden, and he’s likely to earn significantly less than the average players in that country.

So, unless a PSL footballer is able to make it into the elite bracket in which Tau, Dolly, Zungu and Mothiba find themselves in, it’s easy to see why he would rather stay at home.

National team coach Stuart Baxter summed it up well last year:

“Now you land in the PSL‚ it’s televised‚ you get more money‚ it’s more adulation‚ it’s nicer girlfriends, it’s the whole package. And then that hunger to go to Europe disappears.”

It should be noted though that the current PSL wage structure is largely based on the huge TV rights deal it has with SuperSport (DSTV), which reportedly makes up 80 percent of the league’s income.

However, at the start of this year, it was revealed that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) wants to end DSTV’s alleged monopoly, which could dramatically change the playing field if they get their way.


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