Winning isn’t everything when there’s cash to earn

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Winning isn’t everything when there’s cash to earn

Payment for a job well done is a simple concept that should be at the core of all working environments.

This rings especially true for professional athletes, who are regularly judged for their performance on the field. An old-fashioned pat on the back is one thing, but those who exceed expectations should be able to expect more tangible rewards.

I’m not talking about anything extravagant, just a reasonable payout that meets the professional sports standards.

The top officials at the Korea Football Association seem to have the concept down.

The Korea Baseball Organization, on the other hand, seems to be missing the point entirely.

In fact, it seems to think it’s the top officials who need rewarding, not the players.

Let’s start with the KFA. With the 2010 South Africa World Cup in mid-June fast approaching, the KFA held its first general meeting of the year on Tuesday and announced a monetary reward for its players.

Divided into four categories depending on performance, Korean national football team members are entitled to anywhere from 20 million won ($17,680) to 70 million won in the group stage of the tourney.

If the team should earn a historic berth in the round of 16 away from Korea, players can earn another bonus ranging from 70 million won to 1 billion won. If the team advances to the quarterfinals, an additional payout equaling that of the round of 16 applies.

What that means for top players Park Ji-sung, Lee Chung-yong and Park Chu-young is that they can earn up to 170 million won if the team reaches the round of 16. A nice payout indeed, which should also serve as more motivation to win the world’s biggest sporting event.

Similarly, other big baseball organizations like Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball set aside half of their total prize for their players. The NPB and its players are said to have agreed to donate half of the earnings to the development of amateur baseball.

So there’s a precedent for setting a clear standard and sharing the reward for a job well done. But what seems obvious to many of us has apparently passed right by the KBO, which is mired in a dispute with its players over the cash rewards for finishing runner-up at last year’s World Baseball Classic.

After the national baseball team lost a close game to its rival Japan at the 2009 World Baseball Classic in March of last year, the organization received a total of $3.56 million (before taxes) - $2 million for the runner-up finish and $1.56 million for participating.

KBO officials had initially agreed to split the total earnings minus the expenses but, claiming an unexpected rise in expenses, decided to divvy up just half of the $2 million payout - which WBC tourney regulations require it to split with the players - minus taxes and expenses. It came out to 900 million won.

The players were obviously peeved by this, and their union sued the organization in Seoul Central District Court. To back up their grievance, they submitted an invoice itemizing the expenses claimed by KBO officials.

Ready? They included a total of 22.17 million won spent at room salons and other questionable charges.

The Korean baseball team for the 2009 WBC consisted mostly of young players without much international experience. They hadn’t been expected to challenge for the title.

Furthermore, finishing runner-up at the 2009 WBC, along with winning the gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, sparked an impressive increase in attendance across the league. The KBO set a single-season attendance record of 5.9 million last season and confidently predicted it will reach the 6.5 million mark this season.

In other words, these players are making big money for the KBO.

It’s not surprising to the players are so angry.

Maybe baseball officials can better spend their time by referring to the KFA’s handling of award distributions, instead of spending millions of won on drinks.

By Jason KIM []
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