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The earning power of England’s top cricketers is set to rise sharply as a result of their exploits this summer against the Australians.
Experts expect the three highest-profile players – Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and captain Michael Vaughan – to be able to add substantially to their off-field endorsements after the team’s achievement in recapturing the Ashes after 16 years.
Some believe Flintoff – now widely seen as the world’s best all-rounder – could in time rival rugby’s Jonny Wilkinson, whose kick won England the 2003 World Cup, for off-field earning potential. They point out that both sports appeal to the relatively affluent ABC1 social groupings.
“I would say Flintoff could get right up there with Wilkinson if things go well,” said Nigel Currie, director of GEM, a sports marketing agency.
Mr Currie estimated the rugby player’s off-pitch income from the likes of Hackett, the menswear brand, and Boots, the chemist, at between £3m and £5m a year – “probably nearer £3m because of the setbacks he has had since the World Cup”.
He estimated Flintoff’s present off-field earnings at “close to £1m” but said that “within six months that should be £1.5m or more”.
“Flintoff is only the third figure with top-notch marketing potential to emerge from English cricket since the war, after Denis Compton and Ian Botham,” Mr Currie said. “He hits the huge sixes that get shown on the news, is always in the game and has a good personality. Plus the timing is right: this has happened when he has really got his game and his life together.”
Flintoff’s sponsors include Barclays Capital, Volkswagen, the carmaker, and Thwaites, the brewer.
ISM, the company that manages Flintoff, said offers for its cricketers had been flooding in since the series ended on Monday.
Senior England cricketers are understood to earn between £300,000 and £400,000 a year directly from the sport. According to the England and Wales Cricket Board, the players will pick up a bonus of about £50,000 each for winning the Ashes.
Others cautioned that, whereas world cup winners in the leading team sports such as rugby are world champions for four years, England’s cricketers face tough tours to Pakistan and India this winter and will have to battle again for the Ashes in just 18 months.
On the other hand, players were advised to resist the temptation to cash in on every short-term commercial opportunity in favour of attempting to build sustainable long-term brands. “They will no doubt do very well,” said Jon Holmes, chairman of SFX Sports Group UK, the agency. However, he added: “One of the qualities that has endeared these characters to the public is their lack of celebrity trappings.”
Commercial pickings for England players other than the big three are, in any case, likely to be considerably slimmer. “It is a team sport where only two or three will really capitalise,” said Mr Currie.