Whilst there is no denying that professional sports as a whole is a huge industry today, trying to breakdown the numbers to work out the sports that can be considered the ‘richest’ is not an easy task. There is a lot of data that goes into the discussion, and it is a matter of opinion as to which holds the most value, whether it be annual revenues, number of professional leagues, or average athlete salaries. In this post, we have used a combination of the three to reach a conclusion of what we believed to be the top five sports across the globe.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, two of soccer’s most significant players in history, have alternated top two places on Forbes’ list of the top paid athletes in the world for three out of the past four years. That was until this year when tennis legend Roger Federer took the top position. Federer has benefitted from a plethora of impressive endorsement deals and is currently sponsored by thirteen different brands. These include huge names such as Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, and Lindt.
However, this drop in the relative monetary success of individual athletes is not representative of any financial problems within the soccer industry itself, with the sport accounting for five places in the top ten highest-grossing professional sports leagues. Another representation of the colossal wealth within the sport is a compilation of soccer’s Top 10 Biggest Spenders In The Transfer Market Since 2000, which shows some pretty wild club spending over the years. Most of this spending is from within the British Premier League and the Spanish La Liga.
The National Football League (NFL) has consistently been ranked as the sport bringing in the highest revenue globally, and it is this financial dominance that grants the sport a place in this list. The same Forbes list as previously mentioned has revealed that over half of the top 50 most valuable sports teams play in the league. Another impressive feat of the league is the value of the broadcasting deals it holds with US networks, raking in a whopping $4.5 billion annually from deals with four stations.
If American football had even one other league that brought in anywhere near the amount of the NFL, it would undeniably be the richest sport in the world. However, the concentration of the sport’s wealth within this one league lowers its position alongside more financially diverse sports, such as soccer.
Much like the NFL within American Football, the sport of basketball as a whole relies pretty heavily on the National Basketball Association (NBA). Individual players from within this league make up more of Forbes’ highest-paid athlete list for 2020 than any other sport. Whilst this is obviously impressive, it should be remembered that the NBA was much more affected by the pandemic than the NFL, with the NFL remaining largely unaffected due to its late-summer season. Basketball’s most prominent players also have some of the most lucrative brand endorsement’s, with Lebron James’ lifetime Nike deal set to pay him $1 billion by the time he is in his 60s. That’s pretty impressive.
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the sporting elite, but the world of baseball is steadily increasing its hold on a place within the wealthiest sports in the world. With impressive statistics for average athlete wages compared to other sports and growing popularity outside of the United States, baseball could be set to grow even more in coming years. This recent and growing popularity is primarily a product of the sport’s massive growth in Latin America and the Caribbean, in terms of both players and spectatorship.
Another indication of future growth, and potential new fans, is the intended return of baseball to the summer Olympic Games. An impressive new stadium in Tokyo, coined the Yokohama Stadium, was built in preparation for this summer’s cancelled Olympic Games. Whilst this obviously did not happen, the stadium has actually been used for the first time this week; it saw 16,000 Japanese fans enter the grounds for a national game, one of the first live sporting events to take place as usual since Covid-19.
It’s clear from this list that there is some pretty crazy spending within the world’s richest sports. Whilst numerous other sports are raking in the big bucks, such as hockey and golf, the global reach of these four sports solidify their status of the world’s richest.