Which are the most profitable sports leagues?
Globally, the sports industry has been estimated to be worth over $620 billion. This indicates that professional games are big business in today’s world with money being generated from ticket sales or events, stadium rentals, broadcasting deals, transfers, merchandise, gambling and sponsorships.
A lot of sports fans tend to ignore the fact that their beloved team is primarily a big business. Sports ventures have proven to be a really profitable branch of the entertainment industry, making incredible sums of money from all sorts of sources.
Below, you shall be looking at the most valuable, the biggest and the most profitable sports leagues worldwide ranked by their yearly average revenue.
|League Rank||League Name||Country||Value|
|1||National Football League||America||$18 billion|
|2||Indian Premier League||India||$11 billion|
|3||Major League Baseball||America||$10.7 billion|
|4||National Basketball Association||North America||$10 billion|
|5||English Premier League||England||$5.3 billion|
|6||National Hockey League||North America||$4.8 billion|
|7||La Liga Santander||Spain||$4.5 billion|
|9||Serie A||Italy||$2.8 billion|
|10||UEFA Champions League||Switzerland||$2.8 billion|
Table of Contents
Ranking The 10 Most Profitable Sports Leagues
10. UEFA Champions League
- Revenue: $2.8 billion
- Sport: Football
- Formed In: 1955
- Country: Switzerland
- Partners: Adidas, Vivo, and others
At the top of European football is the Champions League, the ultimate goal for every team. Every Season, 32 teams who are selected based on their performances in their respective leagues get to compete in this highly prestigious competition. These teams are then drawn into eight groups of four teams using a certain algorithm. Each team in a group then plays each other in a double round-robin system. A grand total of twenty two clubs have won this prestigious competition since its inception in 1955.
With 13 titles, Real Madrid holds the record for most titles ever won. BT Sports broadcasts all the matches, paying a lot – over £400 million every year from 2021 to 2024.
UEFA Champions League, making about $2.8 billion. Manchester City’s team is the most valuable, worth a huge €1.01 billion. Teams from top leagues like the Premier League and La Liga compete. This league takes the tenth spot worldwide.
This was because the previous year’s earnings got a big boost from the delayed European Championship. A lot of the money comes from working with DAZN, a streaming service. Looking forward, UEFA has improved how the women’s league works and how it’s shown on TV, aiming for a brighter cycle from 2021-22 to 2024-25.
9. Serie A
- Revenue: $2.8 billion
- Sport: Football
- Formed In: 1898
- Country: Italy
- Partners: Puma and others
Heading over to Italy, we find the Serie A, Italy’s premier football league, a true favorite among European football enthusiasts and fans worldwide. Napoli used to be the most expensive sports team in the Serie A, but Juventus now holds that position.
Alongside the English Premier League and Bundesliga, Serie A’s broadcasting deal stands as a colossal milestone in football history. The league secured a revamped broadcast agreement in 2019, injecting a reported €1.3 billion into its coffers every season.
Serie A, Italy’s top-tier football league, takes the ninth spot in the hierarchy of wealth, generating an impressive $2.8 billion in revenue, and though it stands towards the tail end of the list, it’s by no means trailing behind. In the mosaic of this league’s rich history, the AC Milan franchise gleams as the one with the loftiest market value, sitting at a notable 571.4 million euros.
The pitch is home to 20 teams that engage in a gripping 38-game series. Serie A has its unique flavor, known for its calculated strategic style that prioritizes tactics over lightning-fast plays. With an eye on elevating its financial fortunes, the Italian football league has strategically aligned itself with sports streaming giant DAZN, embarking on a €2.5 billion (US$2.7 billion) domestic deal lasting till 2024. Additionally, the league has inked a substantial €262.5 million (US$280.9 million) three-year agreement with Pay-TV broadcaster Sky Italia. The stage is set for Serie A to continue its footballing legacy with a dash of financial flair.
- Revenue: $4.3 billion
- Sport: Football
- Formed In: 1962
- Country: Germany
- Partners: Adidas, Coca-Cola, Puma, and others
Landing in the eighth spot, we find Germany’s Bundesliga, a vibrant football league home to 18 teams, each hustling through 34 games every year. This exciting league chips in around $4.3 billion in revenue, and leading the pack is FC Bayern Munich, standing tall with a value of approximately 815.25 million euros.
The Bundesliga is a magnet for fans, drawing massive crowds to stadiums with an impressive average of 42,738 tickets sold per game. It’s no surprise that the league has celebrated a 5.4% surge in combined revenues across the nation’s professional teams.
The league’s financial game is strong, mainly powered by broadcasting rights, sponsorships, and ticket sales, amped up by a smart television network deal. The Bundesliga secures a cool €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) annually from national television rights alone. It’s not just football on the field, but also a strategic partnership game as the league teams up with major players like Adidas, Coca-Cola, and Puma.
Speaking of fan loyalty, the numbers really shine.
The Bundesliga boasts some of the world’s most dedicated fans, filling up stadiums for every game. Picture this: an average of 42,738 tickets are scooped up per game. The league’s recent announcement reveals a fantastic growth story—collectively, the eighteen clubs have pulled in over 4 billion euros ($4.33 billion), a whopping 5.4 percent jump from the 2018 football season. It’s safe to say the Bundesliga’s energy and excitement are truly scoring big.
7. La Liga Santander
- Revenue: $4.5 billion
- Sport: Football
- Formed In: 1929
- Country: Spain
- Partners: Santander, Nike, Coca-Cola, and others
La Liga Santander is not as popular as the English Premier League. However, with an estimated value of $4.5 billion, La Liga Santander is one of the most popular football leagues in the world. As of 2023, it is the home of Real Madrid, the richest football club in the world with a net worth of $5.1 billion.
Twenty teams play a 38-game season in the La Liga Santander, attracting millions of viewers each year. Featuring some of Europe’s best clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal, etc., the football league earns the largest share of its revenue from sponsorships, broadcasting rights, and ticket sales.La Liga club revenues rose by 20.6 per cent during the 2017/18 campaign to reach a record €4.479 billion.
6. National Hockey League
- Revenue: $4.8 billion
- Sport: Hockey
- Formed In: 1917
- Country: North America
- Partners: Adidas, Coca-Cola, Discover, and others
The National Hockey League, similarly to other major sports, may be one of the lesser sports in North America, but it still has a massive fanbase. The NHL is still the biggest hockey league in the world generating a revenue of €4.2 billion in the 2017-2018 season.
With an estimated value of $4.8 billion last year, the NHL is the sixth most valuable league in North America, the most valuable team, the New York Rangers valued at $2.2 billion.
The National Hockey League consists of 32 teams that play 82 games each year, followed by playoffs and Stanley Cup Finals. Each season, the NHL generates billions of dollars in revenue through broadcasting rights, sponsorships, ticket sales, and lucrative television deals.
The NHL is projected to surpass $5 billion with the new ESPN TV contract and the addition of the Seattle Kraken. It has partnered with companies like Adidas, Coca-Cola, and Discover, among others.
5. English Premier League
- Revenue: $5.3 billion
- Sport: Football
- Formed In: 1992
- Partners: Sky, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video, and others
The Premier League may be light years behind American Sports, but it’s the most-watched sports league globally, especially when it comes to football games. Teams involved in the Premier league game are restricted only to England and Wales, but still it’s followed by people all over the world.
Every club in the English top flight generates their revenue through commercial and sponsorship deals. The EnglishPremier League generates its revenue via TV broadcasting rights, with about $5.3 billion. For instance, in 2016 a 3-years TV contract was signed by the Premier League worth $13.6 billion. This funds were evenly shared among the 20 clubs in the league. In 2016/17 season available data, the Premier League made €5.3 billion.
Last year, Manchester United acquired high-profile players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku, which has helped generate significant revenue for EPL teams.
Media attention, global fan engagement, and lucrative sponsorship deals have leveraged the EPL’s revenue, and this has boosted the financial prospects of clubs in the league. It is worth mentioning that for the first time in the last 30 years, EPL’s revenue was generated by overseas broadcasters instead of domestic stations. However, the league signed agreements to extend its existing domestic rights. Some of the most prominent deals are with Sky, BT Sport, and American Sports Network
4. National Basketball Association
- Revenue: $10 billion
- Sport: Basketball
- Formed In: 1946
- Country: North America
- Partners: Nike and others
When compared to the NFL and the MLB, the National Basketball Association enjoys worldwide popularity and fame especially in North America. It comes as no surprise since basketball is currently sitting somewhere in the top five most liked and followed sports globally, with an estimated number of 800 million global fans.
The NBA or National Basketball Association comes in fourth on the list with a revenue of just over $10 billion. As one of the richest and most prestigious basketball leagues in the world, North America’s NBA has an average team value of around $3 billion, and the Golden State Warriors are worth $7.56 billion.
The pandemic impacted the NBA for two consecutive years and impacted revenue by $6.4 billion for the 2020/21 season. However, last year the league jumped to $10 billion in revenue. From $3.7 billion in 2012 to $10 billion in 2022, the NBA’s annual income has nearly tripled over the past decade.
Apart from having some of the richest players in the world play in this league, it has secured national television broadcasting contracts worth $500 million. But the main driver of this growth is the NBA’s sponsorship deal with Nike and their jersey patch program for individual teams. It is worth noting that the program reportedly brought in more than $200 million last year.
Estimation from Forbes, shows that at least an NBA franchise is worth $1 billion and an average NBA team worth $1.87 billion in 2019
Fans attendance and ticket sales, reveals the consistent rise of NBA games without complaining about the prices. With big teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors all worth above $2 billion.
3. Major League Baseball
- Revenue: $10.7 billion
- Sport: Baseball
- Formed In: 1976
- Country: America
- Partners: Chevrolet, Mastercard, Nike and others
Baseball is another sport that does not really have a global fanbase, with the majority of its fans coming from North America. America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) ranks in the 3rd position of the most profitable leagues in the world. The league has an amazing revenue which is estimated to be about $10.7 billion. The highest earners of the league are the Los Angeles Dodgers, raking in a notable remuneration of $5 million.
MLB gross revenues as at 1992 was $1.2 billion and since then, it has grown to $10.3 billion in 2018, and $10.7 billion in 2019. This means that each team that participated last season made a profit of more than $300 million.
The salary cap jumped 11.1% to record the largest since 2001 with an average player salary of $4.9 million. With a $360 million nine-year contract with the New York Yankees, Aaron Judge became the highest-paid position player in MLB history. The MLB began in 1992 and now has 30 teams that play 162 games a year, followed by playoffs and World Series. Despite being adversely affected by the pandemic, the American baseball league hit a home run in 2022, boosting revenue. Its primary revenue source comes from broadcasting rights, sponsorships, and ticket sales, and it has a long-standing broadcasting deal with television networks that generates billions of dollars each year. Some of the league’s partners include Chevrolet, Mastercard, and Nike.
Each season, popular baseball teams rake in millions from ticket sales, as an average ticket price per game in 2018 was $32.44. This shows how the MLB has risen consistently every year since 2006.
2. Indian Premier League
- Revenue: $11 billion
- Sport: Cricket
- Formed In: 2008
- Country: India
- Partners: Vivo, Paytm, Tata, Dream 11, and others
The Indian Premier League is now one of the most prominent leagues in the world. IPL combines fantastic cricket performances in the field but it also has great commercial success. Ten competitive teams participate in a yearly series of 70 matches, all competing for the prestigious IPL Trophy. IPL Trophy attracts a really huge amount of global audience. The Indian Premier League is a financially robust tram that has a valuation that exceeds $10 billion.
The IPL’s financial strength stems from its diverse revenue streams. One of the most important parts of its revenue comes from broadcasting. The massive partnerships with many TV channels give them billions of dollars every year. The broadcasting appeal also shows the IPL’s global impact.
Some of the most prominent partnerships are with VIVO, Paytm, TATA, and Dream11.
The IPL combines athleticism and business prowess, enthusiast cricket followers and also people and organizations have recognized its significance in both the sport and commercial world.
1. National Football League (NFL)
- Revenue: $18 billion
- Sport: Football
- Formed In: 1920
- Country: America
- Partners: PepsiCo, Nike, Visa, and others
Established in 1920, the National Football League (NFL) holds a prominent position, boasting a remarkable revenue of $18 billion in 2022. The Dallas Cowboys stand at the forefront with a staggering value of $7.64 billion, while Aaron Rodgers, a key player for the Green Bay Packers, secured the highest salary of $50.3 million for the 2022 season.
With the NFL’s 32 franchises commanding a major portion of this revenue, the league also claims ownership of 29 of the world’s 50 most valuable stadiums. With its electrifying sporting spectacles and fierce competition, the NFL is the pinnacle of professional American football.
Most of the league’s revenue comes from broadcast rights, sponsorships, and ticket sales. The company makes billions of dollars a year from deals with telecom giants like ESPN, Fox, and NBC.
The league’s financial prowess is also strengthened by strategic collaborations with multinational companies like PepsiCo, Nike, and Visa. The NFL saw revenue reduced by the pandemic impacts during the 2020 season. As a result, the salary cap was temporarily reduced. Despite these challenges, the league rebounded with two strong seasons and plans to earn $25 billion by 2027.
In the realm of business and sports, these top 10 most profitable sports leagues around the world illustrate how games can become big money. These leagues prove that love of the game can be matched with real financial success with jaw-dropping revenues.
Not only are they impressive athletes, but their ability to attract countless fans, sign lucrative broadcasting deals, and form smart partnerships also highlights the huge economic impact of sports. Sport is more than just a play. These leagues prove it’s a thriving industry that pumps billions into economies and keeps fans cheering around the world.
The financial playgrounds of these leagues reveal that they’re much more than just matches – they’re business powerhouses. They have proven the synergy between sports and money by captivating audiences, securing big deals, and turning fervour into money. There is no doubt that these leagues play an important role in the global economy, demonstrating that the game we love is also a colossal success in the business world.
America has four of the world’s most valuable sports leagues
So there is our current list of the most profitable sports leagues in the world. Please let us know what you think in the comments section.