To coincide with the start of the (association) football season in Europe, Forbes – a leading source for business news and financial information – has revealed that the sport’s ten highest paid players are, currently: David Beckham ($40m a year), Christiano Ronaldo ($38m), Lional Messai ($32m), Ricardo Kaka ($25m), Ronaldinho ($24m), Theirry Henry ($24m), Wayne Rooney ($20m), Frank Lampard ($17m), Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($17m) and Samuel Eto’o ($15m).


Of course, these figures include the player’s salary, bonuses and endorsements.


Comment: About this time last year IT Training magazine published its annual ‘top ten’ tables – in terms of annual revenue – for UK bespoke e-learning content developers and off-the-shelf generic content providers (globally), along with the top five authoring tool providers and the top five LMS/LCMS providers. As far as the bespoke content producers were concerned, Line (£7.05m), Kineo (£5.20m) and Epic (£5.15m) occupied the top three places. They were all some way ahead of the rest.


In terms of off-the-shelf e-learning content providers, SkillSoft, with global revenues of £207.25m, was by far the world’s leading producer. Its nearest rival – Element K – generated a mere £42.76m. Element K also featured in the LMS/LCMS providers table, with revenue of some £10.53m. However, Saba – like SkillSoft in the generic content table – was in the lead, with revenues of £72.06m.


So, assuming that there has been no dramatic changes in turnover among e-learning (and related) companies in the past year:

  • The largest of the UK’s bespoke content developers (Line) generates about as much income in a year as Samuel Eto’o does by himself.
  • SkillSoft, alone of all the off-the-shelf content providers, is the only organisation in the e-learning sector which is worth more than the top ten footballers put together. So, if it ever wanted to change industries and own a football team, it stands a fair chance of success.
  • Saba – if it so chose – could just about ‘buy’ Ronaldinho, Theirry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o (but a team of six, as Arsene Wenger’s ten-man Arsenal proved recently while losing 8 – 2 to Manchester United, is unlikely to be competitive).


All in all, it might seem that it’s more lucrative to be a top footballer than an e-learning professional – even if lifetime earnings are taken into account.


Might that also mean that football is not just a more popular but also a more important activity than corporate learning and development? That’s an altogether more sobering thought. Were it to be debated in the Oxford Union (which has held some high profile debates on e-learning during the past two years), the outcome may well not be in favour of e-learning.