The Cost Of Raising A Messi

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“At first my parents gave me the injections from when I was eight years old until I learnt. It was a small needle. [Then] I injected my legs once every night. I started at 12 years old. It was not something that left an impression on me. It did not hurt, it was something routine for me that I had to do and I did it normally.”

Lionel Messi, Footballer, The Sun

The glitz, the glamour, the vast riches on offer can attract families and guardians to push young people into careers in sports.

Yet in the case of Messi, his parents had to shell out over £1,000+ for these treatments to deal with Leo’s growth hormone deficiency at an early age. It is just one example of how far parents will go to raise the next superstar, but also of the significant cost to raising a potential sports star.

New research, entitled: The Cost Of Raising A Profocuses on revealing the true cost of raising a future sportsperson. It is collated off three main cost areas: (i) training/exams (ii) equipment and (iii) specialist healthcare.

The Race To Be The Best

Perhaps surprisingly, parents who want to raise the next Formula One legend will face the stiffest costs, estimated to sink an eye-watering £595,000. However, considering that drivers require access to high speed, and costly vehicles, on second thoughts, this is not that surprising. The researchers estimated that the bulk of this huge fee comes from children being required to complete a minimum of 10 years of training at £50,000 a year in karting (at a specialist school).

Table details how much it costs to “raise a pro”

Eye Of The Tiger

Formula one is followed by golf, which is estimated to cost parents £333,000+. Much like motor sports, the biggest part of this cost is attendance in specialist schools and access to golf courses. In addition, a set of six golf clubs can cost up to £6,000, even more than the maintenance of kart.

“Cheapest” Careers

The two cheapest careers to fund are (i) basketball players at £13,000, followed by (ii) boxers at £18,000. Basketball looks to be a lucrative career, with the average NBA star estimated salary at a cool £5 million. By contrast, the average boxer makes a paltry £36,000, not even taking into account the physical and mental toll the sport puts on its professionals.

Basketball appears to be the most cost effective sport with the bulk of costs being associated with being part of a Amateur Atheltic Union (AAU), which are basketball programmes offering a more affordable alternative for players looking to progress beyond amateur status.


As the below image illustrates, football is “surprisingly” expensive. The biggest cost facing a burgeoning Messi or Ronaldo is the travel costs, over a ten year period, associated with going to and from games and training. While the Premier League offers untold riches to those who make it, the average football wage in the other divisions, of £825,000 per year, making the sport well worth the investment.

Is Sports Accessible To All?

How much does money when trying to raise a future sportsperson? As outlined above, it would seem to be quite a lot.

For example, in the 2012 Olympics, a third of the medal winners from Britain attended a fee-paying school, yet this type of school is estimated to education only 7% of the overall population of school goers.

To bridge the funding gap in the UK, organisations like SportsAid, a charity, helps nearly 1,000 athletes from over 60 sports, from between 12-18 due to their governing body highlight excellent potential talent.

Making Pro Level Pays Itself Back Right? Wrong

Take a sport such as tennis, making it to the professional level would help to pay for all the investment made in a young athlete’s level, right? Not really. For example, the US Tennis Association outlined that it could cost a minimum of £150,000+ a year to stay a “highly competitive” player. These costs were primarily made up of travel and coaching costs.

In a Bloomberg News piece which focused on US player Noah Rubin and his parents, the 23 year old said of their efforts in helping him in his career:

“What were they spending on me? Absurd numbers, and I was still young and they didn’t know what potential I had. It’s putting down a lot of money for something that may never be,” Noah says of his parents. “They’ve put a lot of money into it, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s why tennis is one of the toughest sports to get into. I mean, if you want to be good there’s no happy medium. Money will be spent.”

Noah Rubin, Bloomberg News

In the case of Rubin, looking at his official ATP Tour page, his ranked 173rd in the world, and has accumulated £70,000+ prize money this year so far. Given the estimates above on breaking even, it would seem a steep challenge for Rubin and other professionals in his position.

In The End, It Must Be Worth It?

Moving beyond just the actual cost aspect of raising a future sports superstar, the effects of such an effort can put families and loved ones under huge strain.

“Both parents, but especially my dad, hid a lot of the negative effects of what my tennis was doing to him. When I won Wimbledon, my feeling of happiness was more for him than anything else.”

Noah Rubin, Bloomberg News

With families making such huge efforts to support their children in their sports careers, in tandem, an entire industry has built up to support dreams of professional careers, worth an estimated £15 billion+ in the US alone. The question of who is benefiting from this industry is a murky one, but its doubtful the young athletes, or their financial stretched families are.

Maybe, just maybe, professional sports careers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be?

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