Globally, the sports industry is estimated to be worth over 623 billion U.S. dollars. This goes to show that professional sports have become big business in today’s world, generating revenue from various sources. Let’s take a look at the current top 10 richest sports leagues in the world.
The Business of Sports Leagues
Many sports fans often overlook the fact that their favorite teams are primarily big businesses. Sports businesses have proven to be extremely lucrative in the entertainment market, earning fantastic income from multiple sources. These include events or ticket sales, stadium rentals, transfers, broadcasting deals, merchandise, sponsorships, and even gambling.
The Richest Sports Leagues Today
10. UEFA Champions League
With annual revenue of $2.8 billion, the UEFA Champions League is a prestigious competition that features 32 teams selected based on their performances in their respective leagues. These teams are drawn into eight groups, and each group plays a double round-robin system. Since its inception in 1955, a total of twenty-two clubs have won this coveted competition. BT Sports has acquired the rights to broadcast every single Champions League and Europa League game, making a substantial investment of over £400m per year from 2021-2024.
9. Italy’s Serie A
Italy’s top-flight football league, Serie A, generates revenue of $2.8 billion. Known for its popularity in Europe and among football fans worldwide, Serie A witnessed a significant transfer deal with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus. Other high-profile players, like Romelu Lukaku and Tammy Abraham, have also joined the league. Serie A’s broadcasting deal is one of the largest in the world, bringing in a reported €1.3 billion every season.
8. Germany’s Bundesliga
The German top-flight football league, Bundesliga, generates revenue of $4.3 billion. Renowned for having the most loyal fans in the world, Bundesliga games consistently draw large crowds, with an average of 42,738 tickets sold per game. The league’s total revenue from the 2018 football season increased by 5.4 percent to over 4 billion euros ($4.33 billion).
7. La Liga Santander
La Liga Santander, the apex football league in Spain, generates revenue of $4.5 billion. While not as popular as the English Premier League, it is home to two of football’s biggest teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona. La Liga derives its revenue from commercial deals, transfer sales, match ticket sales, and broadcasting deals. During the 2017/18 campaign, La Liga club revenues rose by 20.6 percent to reach a record €4.479 billion, but the recent transfer of Lionel Messi to PSG will cause a decrease in revenue in the upcoming years.
6. National Hockey League
The National Hockey League (NHL), the largest hockey league in the world, generates revenue of $4.8 billion. Despite being less popular in North America compared to other major sports, the NHL still boasts a massive fanbase. In the 2017-2018 season alone, the NHL generated €4.2 billion in revenue. Additionally, a ten-year broadcasting deal with NBC and NBC SportsNet is worth $2 billion or $200 million per season.
5. English Premier League
The English Premier League, generating revenue of $5.3 billion, is the most-watched sports league globally, particularly for football games. Although teams in the Premier League are restricted to England and Wales, the league garners a massive following worldwide. Revenue is generated through commercial and sponsorship deals, primarily from TV broadcasting rights, totaling around $5.3 billion. The Premier League signed a 3-year TV contract worth $13.6 billion in 2016, and these funds were evenly shared among the 20 clubs. With the recent transfers of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively, profits are expected to increase in the coming years.
4. National Basketball Association
The National Basketball Association (NBA) generates revenue of $10 billion, enjoying worldwide popularity, particularly in North America. Basketball ranks among the top five most-liked and followed sports globally, with an estimated 800 million fans. The NBA pulls in mammoth revenues from valuable deals signed with national TV broadcasters, earning $500 million from international media revenue alone. Forbes estimates that an average NBA team is worth $1.87 billion, with big teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and Golden State Warriors valued at over $2 billion.
3. Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball (MLB), with revenue of $10.3 billion, holds the second spot. Although baseball does not have a global fanbase like some other sports, the league’s consistent growth sets it apart. Popular baseball teams generate millions from ticket sales, with an average ticket price of $32.44 per game in 2018. MLB’s gross revenue has been on the rise since 1992, when it stood at $1.2 billion. Each team participating in the MLB made a profit of over $300 million in 2019. However, only six out of the 50 most valuable sports franchises come from this league.
2. Indian Premier League
Cricket, not globally recognized as a popular sport, surprisingly secures the second spot with the Indian Premier League (IPL) generating revenue of $11 billion. With just eight teams playing for two months each year, the IPL’s revenue is astounding. This success can be attributed to the passion for cricket in India, home to 1.339 billion people. The IPL’s annual revenue largely flows from broadcasting deals with Star India. The league also benefits significantly from betting activities, and matchday attendance has consistently risen, with an average of over 32,000 spectators per game per week.
1. National Football League
The National Football League (NFL) reigns supreme as the wealthiest sports league, generating revenue of $18 billion. With its fanbase primarily in the US and Canada, the NFL surpasses even globally recognized European football leagues in terms of financial success. The league has long-term contracts with television networks like ESPN, Fox, and NBC, contributing to the majority of its annual revenue. The NFL boasts 29 out of the 50 richest franchises globally, with half of its revenue distributed among the 32 franchises. Although it may not have the same international reach and social media presence as European football leagues, the NFL undoubtedly outpaces them in terms of revenue.
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