Show me the money! The changing transparency of disc golf financials
10 years. 10 million. Such a simple phrase, but one that changed the game of disc golf forever. With one swift move, Discraft decided to change the rules, releasing to the public the financial details of their blockbuster extension with Paul McBeth.
If you’ve been around Disc Golf for a while like myself, you’ve gotten to witness a big change in the amount of money associated with the sport. When I first began watching, Paul was just winning his first world title, Ken Climo was still the GOAT, and it was very easy to assume that all these athletes were playing for the love of the game. There was no illusion of wealth to be seen. No fancy cars, no fancy broadcasts, the game was in its grass roots. Fast forward a few years ahead and the waters began to muddy. We started to see certain successful players buying nice things, living more luxurious lifestyles. But even still, this was just one or two top players, and they certainly didn’t appear to be millionaires. As the game kept growing, so did this idea that maybe some of these players were making good money. Maybe some were rich. Heck, maybe they’re all dirt poor and some just have trust funds. The once transparent notion that all players were playing for the love of the game and didn’t make much money had slowly fogged up until where we were a few years ago and still are today in a sense: Unless you are well connected it is impossible to know the financial inner workings of the Disc Golf industry. Player salaries, company profits, sponsorship value, it’s mostly a mystery.
All of this mystery left us hoping for just one set of numbers that would set us on a path to understanding the value of our sport. Just one contract, one quarterly report, something to clue us in. It turns out this number came in the form of that famous 10 by 10 deal. Unfortunately this is the biggest outlier in the Disc Golf business, and if it isn’t treated as such I believe it could have seriously negative effects on the sport. Paul’s contract is unique because not only does he carry far more influence than any other player on tour from a sales standpoint (although admittedly some are catching up since his deal was announced), but also because he is being paid primarily through the PM disc line. Because Paul’s contract is what I would consider an outlier on the highest end of the disc golf payscale, I think it is dangerous that it seemingly has set precedent for other deals. The important thing to remember is that players cannot be valued strictly based on their play. This is not a team sport where players are bought to help a team win. These manufacturers want players to market and sell their product. Think about it this way: If some player you’ve never heard of has a breakout season and beats Paul McBeth more times that Paul beats him, is he worth $1M per year? Meaning, will he sell more product than legend of the game and wildly popular disc golfer Paul McBeth? Of course he won’t. This is why I get concerned when I see the disc golf industry paying out new contracts seemingly factoring in what Paul was paid. Because it became public, the athletes now have numbers to bring to the table when negotiating. I just wonder if those numbers were too big to begin with.
I think that this slippery slope could lead to companies overpaying for players and getting hurt in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the players now have more power to get their worth. Just remember, somebody has to pay those players, and for now that rests in the hands of the manufacturers. It’s funny because I was always in the crowd of people shouting for contract details to be made public, but I never considered the potential consequences. I still want the details of course, I just think it comes with a learning curve to the entire industry. There is a delicate balance between scalable growth on the business side, and player rights on the athlete side. The contracts on the low end of disc golf would be a lot more telling than the ones you hear about on social media. That much I know.