Athletes not maximising their earning potential, says Wignall

BY KARYL WALKER Online News Editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 02, 2011

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JAMAICA'S ace sprint hurdler Maurice Wignall says most of the country's premier track and field athletes, while displaying jaw-dropping performances on the track, do not know how to maximise their earning potential.


Wignall, in a candid talk with the Sunday Observer, says most athletes are for the most part conditioned to perform at their optimum in their respective disciplines, but are not paying attention to the deals that are made in their name.


"We are not marketing ourselves properly. Sport is a business and some athletes do not think hard enough about the business part of their careers," Wignall said.


The burden of training, maintaining schedules, hectic travel and performing on the track or in the field is much to bear and sportsmen and women need managers and agents to ink deals and take care of their business.


According to Wignall, most athletes do not pay close attention to their contractual arrangements and most never read the fine print. But for him, the business part of his career is just as important as winning medals at major championships or collecting the lion's share of the spoils in the Diamond League.


"Whenever it is physically possible I sit in on meetings when my agent is negotiating on my behalf. If not I deal with the business through electronic communication (e-mail), I peruse it with a fine-toothed comb.


"If there are conditions that I'm not comfortable with, I question it and request that it be adjusted. I'm careful not to let things slip by as in the end it affects my earnings and my future," he told the Sunday Observer.


Wignall is contracted to the Japanese shoe company Mizuno and his agent/manager is Claude Bryan.


He advises athletes to keep themselves in the loop when deals are being negotiated in their name with sporting goods companies and not allow themselves to be exploited.


He said some athletes who are not yet established get bonuses which are tied to their performances and while their careers blossom, they eventually end up getting yearly stipends from these companies.


He said some agents deal shady and try to pull wool over unsuspecting athletes' eyes.


"Some agents, especially the foreigners, sometimes remove the bonus sheets from the contracts and keep the athletes in the dark. They end up collecting all that money on the athletes' behalf. We need to be wary of this practice because I have heard so many horror stories about those kinds of shady deals," he said.


Triple world record-holder Usain Bolt has been dubbed the world's most marketable sportsman and while Bolt has been cashing in on his phenomenal athletic exploits, Wignall believes Bolt can raise the earning bar for every athlete in the world.


"What Bolt settles for will help everybody else. He needs to maximise his earnings and the rest of us will benefit from the trickle down," he said.


Wignall also intimated a healthy respect for Jamaica's sprint queen Veronica Campbell-Brown, whom he described as the consummate athlete and businesswoman.


"People might see her through their television and think she is too serious or brash, but Veronica is an astute businesswoman who takes her career and earning very seriously. She is very strong and will not settle for less than she is worth," Wignall said.


With the nation's eyes fixed on the recent defection of athletes from the MVP camp to the rivalling Racers Track Club, Wignall, tried to steer clear of any controversy between both camps, who he said had made valuable contributions to the nation's track and field prowess.


"I will not pit Jamaicans against Jamaicans as both camps have played their part, but maybe there is something that is happening in one camp that is not happening in the other," the athlete known as 'Mr Smooth' said.


The 35-year-old Wignall opted out of trying to qualify for the recent World Championship in Daegu, South Korea for personal reasons, but said he plans to resume training later this month under the guidance of coach Fitz Coleman, with the aim of competing at the 2012 London Olympics.


His first appearance in a major international championship was at the 1997 World Championships where he competed in the long jump and jumped 8.09 metres, which is his personal best.


His first hurdling medal, a bronze, was earned at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He also won bronze at the 2004 World Indoor Championships in the 60m hurdles.


In the same year, he finished fourth in the final of the Athens Olympic 110-metre hurdles, missing the bronze medal by one hundredth of a second.


In the semi-finals he set a new national record of 13.17 which was broken by Dwight Thomas last year.


In that same year, Wignall won the silver medal in the second IAAF World Athletics Finals in Monaco. In March 2006 he won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 13.26.



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