For millions, sport is a way of life. It’s not just a physical activity, but an opportunity to feel part of something bigger, mix with like-minded people, and share the many ups and downs with them along the way. These fans partake in a lot of activities to stay involved with their chosen team, including travelling long distances to watch away games, scheduling their weekends around fixtures, and following the latest developments in between games. Many also enjoy betting on the games, backing their team with their wagers. The savviest among these will also take advantage of the free bet promotions that are offered by bookies like Virgin Bet.
Sport is more than just a passion or a form of exercise, though. It’s also big business.
According to research by Kearney, the global sports industry is worth around $620 billion, making it larger than the GDP of all but 21 countries, including developed economies like Sweden, Poland, Austria, Norway, Israel, Ireland, and Denmark.
Of course, that huge pie is shared among many different participants, including the media companies that broadcast games, the retailers that sell us memorabilia, the food companies that serve concessions at events, and the support businesses that help games run smoothly.
The biggest share of all, naturally, belongs to the leagues and the teams that compete within them. Major leagues in most advanced economies are incredibly valuable, with revenues and net asset values in the billions.
But which ones are the biggest? Let’s take a look.
National Football League (NFL)
The National Football League is the biggest league in the world. That’s an impressive feat on its own, but when you consider that it’s a domestic competition in which each team plays just 17 games in a season, the achievement is astonishing.
When you compare it to some of the other valuable leagues, that’s a miniscule amount of time on the field.
The NFL has been very good at building the brands of its teams and players, has shaped its playoff tournament to have a final that’s over in one game to boost excitement, and has spent a lot of time attracting casual fans too.
To that end, the NFL generates $16 billion of revenue each year, significantly more than any other league on the planet. And with half of this going to the teams, 29 of its 32 franchises are included in the list of top 50 richest sports teams in the world.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Before the NFL took over as the USA’s most-loved sport, baseball was number one. Like the NFL, its position is made even more impressive by the fact that it is primarily a domestic affair, despite its playoffs being known as the World Series.
The MLB season is significantly larger than the NFL’s with each team competing in a whopping 162 games each year. Its (generally) non-contact nature makes it possible for the players to endure such a busy schedule without risk to their brains. The stats that are associated with each player also require a lot of games to become statistically relevant.
The upside to having so many games is the MLB has an opportunity to sell more game tickets, larger TV rights deals, and more concessions.
All in all, this adds up to annual revenues in excess of $10 billion.
Indian Premier League (IPL)
The Indian Premier League recently moved up the list of most valuable sports leagues following growth in TV rights deals.
The IPL is a cricket competition that is played exclusively in India. Its success is, perhaps, even more impressive than the NFL and MLB, even though these two are richer.
This is because the IPL is much younger, having been founded in 2008. It’s also much smaller with only 10 teams currently competing.
It uses the modern Twenty20 cricket format, helping it to have shorter and snappier matches. This has allowed the IPL to attract more than 31 million viewers per game, which is over 10 times more than what the English Premier League manages in its domestic market.
Of course, this is helped by India’s large population, but it’s also a testament to the league’s ability to offer nail-biting action year after year.
The IPL generates around $10 billion a year in revenue, which puts it just below the MLB (for now).