Money in Combat

I have won 33 medals, over 100 matches and I have represented Australia on multiple occasions, yet I have made no money fighting in Taekwondo; why is that?

On my journey to professional combat sports I have been interested in making money from competing more and more. Taekwondo is an amateur sport, going in to competitions, you know that, we as a Taekwondo community accept it. The prize money offered by Governments and Olympic Committees in other countries mostly come from rumors and National Team member information which could change at any moment. It isn’t reliable information.

Winning the World Taekwondo Grand Prix which is happening in Manchester this weekend will earn you a $5000 prize. A silver medal will earn you $3000 and third place will earn you $1000. This is a great incentive for athletes to earn some money at the highest level. But in comparison to other non-Olympic sports, with less athletes, less global media attention and less infrastructure it is not enough. Taekwondo generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year worldwide. The World Taekwondo Federation has 206 Member National Associations (MNA’s) who all run multiple competitions a year. The MNA’s themselves generate a lot of money and in most countries that money is returned to the athletes on the National Teams on some level. In Australia we run roughly 15 competitions a year domestically. Now, obviously expenses go into running these competitions so not all money is profit.

In Australia we have $335,000 of High Performance Funding from the Australian Sports Commission, that is for National Teams and Coaches travel etc. I am going to use the National Championships as a lone example. It is $130 to enter the single elimination event, meaning that cost might only get you one match. Interstate travel cost is cast aside, because it is your choice, it isn’t necessary for you to enter this competition, so you can’t really make a good argument for your own travel cost.

The National Championships had more than 700 competitors, that means STA brought in $91,000 dollars in revenue from entry fees, this is not including the sale of merchandise and spectator entry on the day. For winning this event in the Senior Black Belt category, the highest level, I received a very thin Gold Medal and no prize money.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to become Australian Champion. I am not the only one who loves Taekwondo and I am certainly not the only one to try and turn Taekwondo into a professional sport. But when you compare that event to the Grappling Industries Melbourne Sub-Only event which I competed at in August, which had less competitors, a huge venue (MSAC) and actual quality medals gave out $3000 in prize money across 8 Adult divisions, as well as every competitor receiving $55 in Product vouchers. Why isn’t this possible in Taekwondo?

We can’t claim that the money is going to the National Team like other countries do. The National Team are handled by the Australian Sports Commission and the AIS. So where is the money going? The sad fact of Taekwondo in Australia is that we don’t really know.

It is a cultural issue with the athletes too, we don’t ask for money because no one has. It’s like Gaelic football in Ireland, even with 80,000 people buying tickets to games the players aren’t paid because its for the ‘love of the game’ and the ‘pride in wearing the jumper’. The NCAA in the US are perhaps the worst, they generate billions but the college players whose games are broadcast on ESPN worldwide are not paid because they are being given the opportunity to be drafted to the NFL after 4 years of extortion play; even though only 3% of players are drafted.

I am proud to be National Champion, I am proud to represent my country, I am proud to be a member of this vibrant and bright community. I just want to do it professionally.

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3 Comments

  1. Hey man, over here in the Philippines we’re feeling the same thing. Are you on the National team? and which weight do you fight?
    We get a small salary being on national team, but as you said it’s quite minimal compared to other sports. Personally I think if we, as a sport, can iron out all the system errors (headshots not counting due to bad foot contact etc.) and are able to generate more live spectators at our events, there would be more money incoming to the athletes. Coming out of the U.S. there’s rumor of lots of money going missing and it’s the same way here in the Philippines, supposed 75 million peso was granted for all of the sports and supposed to be for the players but none of us from any sport have seen anything.
    I hope to see some changes too, perhaps if we were to replicate something similiar to Korea or Iran’s proffessional leagues, (outside of the governing body’s hands) things may happen more quickly/athletes would be able to get paid as they are in other sports.
    Thoughts?

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    Reply

    1. Hey Kris thanks for the comments. I was the reserve for the World Champs this year on the National Team. I’m in the 87+ division. I have heard a lot of stories in a lot of sports about missing money so that doesn’t surprise me. We don’t receive a salary at all for being on the national team here. The funding is more to pay for flights etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      1. That’s like the USA too, only the trip is free but nothing else. Glad to hear you’re on the National Team and a fellow blogger!
        How do you like the new Sport tkd Vs Old school sparring? General votes from Both USA and PHI are negative.
        Also did you watch Servet vs IRI in the Grand Prix?

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