Business Money Sports

Money: The Five Most Valuable Sports Leagues in the World

By Stephen Benton

This might not be the most pleasant thought for many fans out there but the fact is still a fact: sports are perhaps the most profitable forms of entertainment today.


Billions keep their eyes on the TV screens each week to follow their favorite athletes or teams compete against others while watching various forms of advertising, then rush to spend their money on sportswear worn by these athletes or the products they promote. All these, plus a series of other sources of revenue – like transfers and such – are an important source of revenue for sports teams that turn them into a most profitable business for their owners.

Which ones are, then, the most profitable sports leagues in the world? Which teams are worth the most – in dollars, of course? Let’s take a look.

NFL

Even if it doesn’t have the biggest following in the world, the National Football League (NFL) is today the most valuable sports league, with revenues of over $12 billion in 2016. And it’s the most profitable one, too. According to Forbes Magazine, the average NFL team has earned an operating profit of around $91 million in the last season, and none of the 32 teams in the league made less than $26 million. The top spot of Forbes 50 most valuable sports teams in 2017 list is occupied by an NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, with a value of $4.2 billion, growing 5% compared to the previous year. And the list is completed by 29 more.

MLB

Major League Baseball (MLB) comes nowhere near the value of NFL, yet its $9.4 billion revenue in 2016 is still enough for a second place on our list. With a current value of $3.7 billion and operating income of $39 million, the New York Yankees is the most valuable MLB team – and the second most valuable sports team in the world.

NBA

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is third when it comes to revenues and profits. In the 2015-2016 season, the league has generated revenues of almost $5.9 billion, with the average team earning close to $200 million (gross revenue, of course). The most valuable NBA team is currently the New York Knicks with a valuation of $3.3 billion and operating income of over $141 million.

Premier League

After all these three-letter leagues, here’s one that is actually known by its name and not an acronym: the Premier League. With 20 teams from England and Wales, the league has generated revenues of around $4.9 billion in the 2015-2016 season, meaning around $240 million in gross revenues for individual teams. The third most valuable sports team in the world plays in the Premier League – according to Forbes, Manchester United is worth $3.69 billion this year, growing by 11% compared to the last.

NHL

The National Hockey League generates the fifth largest revenue in the world of sports, with more than $3.4 billion in the 2015-2016 season. On average, the 31 NHL teams make around $135 million each, yet none of them have made it to the top 50 most valuable sports teams in 2017.

And to finish our article here is an interesting fact for you: despite the NFL being the most profitable sports league in the world, it’s actually association football that has the most teams in official leagues (over 780) in the most countries (including the US and Canada) that generates the most revenue on a global scale (over $25 billion, according to Wikipedia).

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