How much does a football player earn in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd football leagues?

Football is not just a sport; it’s a significant industry with varying levels of financial rewards for players depending on the league they play in. The salaries of football players can differ greatly between the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd leagues due to factors such as league revenue, sponsorship deals, and media rights. Let’s break down the average earnings of football players across these three tiers.

1st League: Top-Tier Football

The 1st league, often referred to as the top-tier or premier league in many countries, is where the highest-paid football players in the world compete. Here, the financial rewards are substantial, driven by massive TV deals, sponsorship agreements, and commercial activities.

  • Average Salary: In top leagues like the English Premier League (EPL), players can earn an average annual salary of around £3 million ($4 million). The top earners, including star players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, can command salaries exceeding £20 million ($27 million) per year, excluding endorsements and bonuses.
  • Bonuses and Endorsements: Players in the 1st league also receive significant performance-related bonuses, including goal bonuses, appearance bonuses, and win bonuses. Endorsement deals with brands like Nike, Adidas, and Pepsi can add millions more to their income.
  • Contrast in Salaries: While top players earn millions, the salaries of squad players and those on the bench are also substantial but relatively lower, typically ranging from £1 million to £3 million annually.

2nd League: The Middle Tier

The 2nd league, often referred to as the Championship in England or Serie B in Italy, represents a significant drop in earnings compared to the top tier, though the salaries are still competitive and lucrative.

  • Average Salary: Players in the 2nd league can expect to earn an average salary ranging from £300,000 to £600,000 ($400,000 to $800,000) per year. Top players in this league might earn up to £1 million ($1.3 million) annually.
  • Bonuses and Incentives: While not as lucrative as the 1st league, players still benefit from performance bonuses. Promotion bonuses are particularly significant, as clubs incentivize players to reach the top tier.
  • Financial Challenges: The financial disparity between the 1st and 2nd leagues can be stark, leading to financial strain for clubs and players, especially those who have recently been relegated from the top tier and are adjusting to lower revenues.

3rd League: Grassroots Professional Football

The 3rd league, known as League One in England or Serie C in Italy, represents the grassroots professional level, where the earnings are more modest but still respectable compared to the average worker.

  • Average Salary: Players in the 3rd league earn between £50,000 and £100,000 ($65,000 to $130,000) per year. This can vary significantly depending on the club’s financial health and location.
  • Bonuses and Additional Income: Performance bonuses are less common and smaller in scale compared to the higher leagues. Many players might also engage in secondary careers or endorsements to supplement their income.
  • Financial Sustainability: Clubs in the 3rd league often operate on tighter budgets, and financial stability can be a concern. Players at this level may have shorter career spans and less job security, prompting many to consider their long-term financial planning more carefully.

Factors Influencing Earnings

Several factors influence the earnings of football players across these leagues:

  1. League Revenue: Higher league revenue from TV rights, sponsorships, and ticket sales significantly boosts player salaries in the 1st league.
  2. Club Financial Health: Wealthier clubs, regardless of league, can afford to pay higher wages. Conversely, financially struggling clubs may offer lower salaries.
  3. Player Performance and Reputation: Star players with impressive track records can command higher wages due to their marketability and on-field impact.
  4. Geographical Location: Salaries can vary depending on the country and its economic conditions. For instance, players in the top leagues of England, Spain, and Germany typically earn more than those in equivalent leagues in less economically robust countries.


Football player earnings vary widely across the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd leagues, reflecting the financial ecosystem of each tier. While top-tier players earn astronomical figures, those in the lower leagues still make respectable salaries, albeit with more modest financial prospects. Understanding these disparities offers insight into the broader economic landscape of professional football and the diverse experiences of players at different career stages.