The highest-paid Kiwi sportsman you've never heard of is on a high

Wood's pay packet dwarfs that of any All Black – but it's just another deal in the English Premier League, where British Telecom's bidding war with Sky has left clubs awash in cash.
Chris Wood (photo: Burnley FC)

UPDATE / Mar 11, 2018: 

A quick update on the highest-paid New Zealand sportsman most have never heard of.

Chris Wood (26) has become the top scorer for his English Premier League club, Burnley.

The Lancashire club is now seventh in the table. That is, it's the best-of-the-rest behind the big six (Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal). 

That's no mean feat in the world's most competitive soccer football league, and it's in part down to the team's £50,000-a-week Kiwi striker scoring three goals in its past two games

"Chris Wood is becoming a talismanic player for the Clarets," writes the BBC.

Wood's manager will read those words as "Time for a pay rise." 

And Burnley will probably be able to deliver, thanks to new competition from non-traditional media players like British Telecom (BT) driving up the value of broadcast rights (see table below and read Football rights tussle in UK points way ahead for Sky in NZ).

Meanwhile, things aren't going so well for the highest-paid New Zealander in the EPL.

West Ham's £70,000-a-week captain, Winston Reid, was stretchered off with an oxygen mask over his face and a brace around his neck last week after being knocked unconscious during a game against Swansea. The Kiwi defender's knee buckled awkwardly as he blocked a Swansea player. The injury is said to be season-ending for the 29-year-old.

New Zealander Chris Wood lands £50,000-a-week salary with move to Burnley
EARLIER / Aug 22, 2017: 
Kiwi Chris Wood has moved from championship (that is, second division) club Leeds to English Premier League side Burnley for a club-record £15 million ($24.9 million), three-year deal.

Transfer fees are separate from player salaries, but The Sun says Wood (26) will get a pay rise from £8000 ($13,000) a week at his old club to £50,000 ($83,300) as he joins his new club.

Wood has been in the premiership before with stints at West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City. But he never made the starting lineup for either club and scored just one goal off the bench. In the past two seasons at Leeds, the Aucklander found the net 40 times and was the league's top scorer in 2016/17.

In the premiership, Wood will rub shoulders with another Kiwi, West Ham captain Winston Reid  (29). The centre back recently signed a new six-year contract that includes a salary bump to a reported £70,000 ($116,000) a week, after his club was forced to fend off interest from Arsenal and Tottenham.

Even with the pound's post-Brexit crash, Woods' new salary is breathtaking by Kiwi standards and dwarfs that of any All Black. 

But after a broadcast-rights bidding war between British Telecom and Murdoch-owned Sky that left UK soccer awash in cash (see table below), it's just another deal in the premiership, where top players at the biggest clubs can earn £200,000 a week. Wood's contract wasn't even above the fold on most sports websites.

ABOVE: Pressure from new media player BT has pushed broadcasting rights bidding to the limit. Source: BBC.

Where the cash is coming from
Since 2012, BT has offered football games as a loss-leader, offering "free" or discounted access to lure customers to its broadband service, or to upgrade to more expensive plans.

To maximise its income, the Premier League split each season's games, for the three seasons from 2016/17 into seven packages of games — rights to which were auctioned.

Sky paid Sky paid £4.1 billion (or 83% more than its previous three-season deal) to win five of the packages, covering 126 live matches, taking back some of the games it lost to BT in the previous contract period.

BT paid £960 million for rights to screen and stream games in the other two packages.

All up, the three seasons' rights went for a head-spinning £5.14 billion, or 71% more than the previous three-season deal. And then you have overseas broadcast rights (like the BEin mess here), gate-takings, club channels, merchandise and sponsorship deals.

The first year of payouts to clubs under the new Premiership deal looked like this:

Source: BBC

Forsyth Barr recently estimated Sky TV NZ is paying $55 million and $66 million a year to screen All Blacks and Super Rugby games under its latest five-year deal with Sanzar, which runs through to 2020. NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew was coy when recently interviewed by NBR, but NZ Rugby has got to be thinking about its new media options or at least exploiting them to get a better deal with Sky, after 2020.

Could Spark fill the same role as BT here, maybe in partnership with TVNZ? Or could newcomer Amazon, which has already bagged limited NFL rights in the US and out-bid Sky for limited tennis rights in the UK, make a move on the All Blacks? The US giant has already made a nudge in that direction, confirming it has commissioned a documentary series on our national team.

And watch for the dark-horse RubyPass, owned by $810 million NBR Rich Lister Peter Cooper, which now has a heavyweight US investor onboard.

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