Inside Track: Who gets the Diamond League dollars?

May 14, 2010

ATHLETICS-GOLDEN/Times and distances won’t be the only figures athletes and their managers will be checking on the new Diamond League circuit which began on Friday in Doha.

The amount of money athletes earn from the 14-meeting global series, and how it compares to last season, also will be scrutinized.

While Diamond League officials are saying $6.6 million in prize money and millions more in promotional fees will be available, not all managers are convinced athletes will see pay increases.

“That is to be determined,” Daniel Wessfeldt, manager for women’s pole vault world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva and other athletes, told Reuters.

“Those who are absolutely the most well-known promotional athletes, let’s say Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Yelena Isinbayeva, yes, they could make as much money as before,” Wessfeldt said.

“(But) there are some people who would probably lose out a little bit that are in very competitive, normally very well-paid events like the mile and 1,500 metres men, some sprints and distances,” he said.

For races like the 200 and 400 metres, “the amount of the prizes are less substantially,” said U.S. manager Emanuel Hudson, whose clients have included Maurice Greene and other Olympic gold medallists.

“When they say more money, they mean for more events.”

Unlike the old days when the biggest share of prize money went to competitors in a select few headline events, the Diamond League will pay winners in all 32 events the same amount, $10,000, whether they run the men’s 100 metres or throw the women’s shot put.

“It’s a little bit more of the Robin Hood concept,” said Wessfeldt. “Events that were normally better paid are having less money, and those who were very bad paid will now have an increase.

Women’s throwers definitely will benefit for concept, but not necessarily all men’s sprinters, Hudson said.

But there could be a silver lining to aiding the women’s events, he said.

“The women’s pole vault did not exist (as an official event) until about 10 years ago,” he said. “Now one of the highest paid athletes in the sport (Isinbayeva) is from the women’s pole vault.”

Hudson did find fault with the $70,00 maximum athletes could earn in official prize money from the Diamond League. (Athletes have seven competitions per season in the Diamond League with top pay of $10,000 per event).

It might be best to base prize money on market interest, he said.

“Oslo, for example, wouldn’t (normally) be paying a sprinter the same amount of money it would be paying a distance runner,” he said.

“So I think the markets are still individualized places and the athlete gets paid according to that local market,” he said. “That’s the challenge the Diamond League is going to have.

“Obviously it is to everyone’s benefit that it (the Diamond League) succeeds,” he said.

So how does the new circuit solve the money issue?

“You always have the opportunity to pay those who are promotional athletes an appearance fee,” Wessfeldt said.

“Promotional fees are substantially higher than the prize money,” said Zurich organiser Patrick Magyar, who was instrumental in forming the global circuit and serves as its vice chairman. “The top tier athletes are all better off than last year.”

At Zurich, there will be an additional incentive.

“Whereas the prize money schedule will be somewhat lower than in the past,” Magyar said in a statement, “a very attractive bonus system will be in place to honour outstanding performances.

“This, too, seems to be a motivating factor.”

Reuters athletics writer Gene Cherry blogs about the sport on Fridays.

PHOTO: Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia (L), Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia (C) and Sanya Richards of the U.S. celebrate at the end of the IAAF Golden League Memorial Van Damme athletics meeting in Brussels September 4, 2009. Bekele (5000m), Richards (400m) and Isinbayeva (pole vault) shared the $1 million jackpot for winning their events at all six Golden League meetings. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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