Football reigns as one of the more prominent sports in North America, particularly in the United States. The National Football League (NFL) ranks as the highest level of competition, boasting the world's best players and most lucrative contracts. Several semi-pro football leagues also exist beneath the NFL, both in the U.S. and Canada. These minor leagues provide players who can't quite cut it in the NFL with alternative opportunities to develop their skills and still earn money from playing football. Of course, salaries vary greatly based on the profile of the player, team and league. A handful of star athletes make a relatively comfortable living, while most semi-pro footballers have modest contracts that often force them to work second jobs during the off season for supplemental income.
United Football League Salaries
Founded in 2009, the United Football League (UFL) gives one-year contracts worth £22,750 to the majority of its semi-pro football players, according to a 2009 article on FanHouse. Special team players such as punters and kickers make just £16,250 per contract year. On the other hand, starting quarterbacks in the UFL command an average salary of £130,000. In addition to base salary and performance-based bonuses, the six-team UFL also takes care of the housing expenses for its players.
Arena Football League Salaries
The Arena Football League (AFL) also operates in the U.S. as a fast-paced indoor version of the sport. The average AFL player salary is roughly £52,000, as noted by the "NY Daily News." Unfortunately, a lockout took place in 2009. The lockout resulted in a complete overhaul of the league's payment structure for the 2010 season. Previous salaries were replaced by a flat rate player compensation package of just £260 per game over an 18-week schedule, according to the "Sports Business Journal." Three players on each of the 15 AFL teams are eligible for designation as franchise-marketing players. This designation grants these three players a salary of £650 per game. Aside from the flat rate payments, the AFL also offers its players financial aid for housing and meal expenses. Even so, virtually all AFL players must work second jobs to make up for the minimal compensation they receive from arena football.
Canadian Football League Salaries
Yet another semi-pro outfit can be found north of the border in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The eight-team CFL imposes a league-mandated £2.7 million salary cap for each franchise. This leaves most players with a minimum salary of £26,650 as compensation for participation in a six-month season, according to Monster.com. Top draft prospects can earn as much as £32,500 in their first year, and elite veterans can make even more. Quarterback Ricky Ray of the Edmonton Eskimos stood out as the highest-paid player in the CFL in 2009, hauling in £299,000. Only a handful of players command six-figure salaries. Many of the league's lesser-known players resort to moonlighting and off season work to complement their incomes.
Comparing Semi-Pro Salaries to NFL Salaries
Semi-pro players often make a decent amount of money, but their salaries pale in comparison to those in the NFL. Jarrett Bell of "USA Today" reports that the average player salary in the NFL as of 2009 was around £1.2 million. Even fringe players in the NFL enjoyed exorbitant minimum salaries of £211,250 in 2010. NFL stars typically make well over £6 million annually in salary, not to mention the huge profits they bring in from endorsements.