First, it does not compare like with like. The NFL and the Premier League operate in very different ways. The NFL has a salary cap and no promotion and relegation. The Premier League has no salary cap, promotion and relegation, and has to compete for players with other equivalent leagues, primarily in Europe. When a player is transferred between NFL teams, it tends to be for other players and draft picks, not for money. When a player is transferred between football teams, it tends to be for cold, hard cash.
As a general rule, if someone’s making an analogy that involves an apple and an orange being the same thing, and they don’t caveat it like crazy, then they’re being disingenuous at best. So I presumed the factoid was wrong.
I was able to scare up some data, but it’s the most complete set is not that recent (2011), so the following might no longer be an accurate reflection, particularly in the case of the Premier League where the new TV deal has meant teams going a bit crazy on the spending front.
The 2011 NFL Salary Cap was $120 million (£78 million). This is for a 53 player team so we’ll call that $2.26 million (£1.47 million) per player on average.
According to this website, the average take home pay for a Premier League player was $2.71 million (£1.76 m), so yes that is more, and I think this is where the factoid comes from.
However, that’s an average, and for the factoid to be correct, even the NFL team paying the most for its players would have to be paying less than the average Premier League team.
According to ESPN, in 2011, the team with the highest salary cap was the Dallas Cowboys with $136.6 million (88.65 million) or $2.58 m (£1.67 million).
So I was wrong, and the average wage is indeed higher for Premier League teams. I can’t prove all of the factoid because I don’t have an average wage breakdown by team for 2011 so there’s no way of telling what the bottom four Premier League teams were paying, but from these numbers, it wouldn’t surprise me.
* All currency conversion is done using the $1 : £0.649 ratio given as the average exchange rate for 2011 by the IRS.