From top to bottom, sports leagues are focused on finances. Those heading franchises are responsible for keeping their ‘brand’, or team, relevant and lucrative—which means their team needs to perform well on a consistent basis that will keep fans interested.
Then there’s general management that hovers just above the team itself. Between coaches and managers, many of whom are former players themselves, and the top players that lead the team, millions upon millions of dollars, euros, and pounds are invested each year. Just take a look at the Chinese Super League’s list of top earners for a great example of pricey players.
And personnel is only one facet of a major franchise’s expense report. Top athletes require elite health consultants, trainers, equipment, and access to the latest technology to give them the proper edge to win a UEFA Cup, a Super Bowl, or an F1 season.
Aside from talent and dedication, running a successful sports team or league requires deep, nearly endless, pockets. And, at the end of the day, which sports leagues worldwide are taking home the prettiest pennies once all these expenses are covered?
National Football League (NFL)
Given the normalcy of consumerism in North American culture, it should come as no surprise that the highest-earning sports leagues worldwide hail from North America. After all, many citizens of the US and Canada (who share certain national sports leagues) are willing to engage with their team on every level, spending on season tickets as well as microtransactions in mobile sports apps.
The NFL rakes in about $13 billion per year, with Major League Baseball (MLB) taking home a solid $10 billion, and the National Basketball League (NBA) with $7.4 billion. Despite the fact that football (soccer, in North America) is by far the most popular sport worldwide, these three sports leagues have found a way to profit above the rest.
The NFL, in particular, rakes in a ton of cash from TV contracts, which allow for NFL coverage to take place across major TV networks. Unlike European counterparts, these are megalithic corporations that service the entire North American demographic, which means these dollars come straight from the top.
English Premier League
Much like their NFL counterpart, the English Premier League rakes in a ton of money from their television sponsorships. After all, the English Premier League is the most-watched sports league in the world.
As of 2016, the English Premier League took home about $5.3 billion in revenue, which stands at a little less than half of what the NFL takes home at $13 billion. These dollars come from broadcasting rights, but individual clubs undertake far fewer sponsorships than NFL teams. Instead, it’s more common for a star player to manage their own individual endorsement deals.
However, the Premier League has an undeniable global presence and, in particular, enjoys a massive following of punters. While some sites offer a wide range of wagers to bet on the NFL in the United States, fans in the UK and its international Premier League following will bet up to €3 million per match, with some groups estimating that number could be closer to €1 billion for big matches.
Formula One Racing
Though F1 racing didn’t make the top ten list behind the likes of North American major league sports, EU football leagues, and even the Indian Cricket League and Nippon Professional Baseball, it’s an interesting case study.
Given F1’s startling startup costs, which run the gambit from paying for those expensive race purses as well as those insane, cutting-edge engines from top makers, it should be unsurprising that it’s tough to take home a profit in this sport—especially considering teams can number up to 100 people on the floor alone.
In 2019, the Formula One Group reported an annual income of just over $2 billion. With only ten teams and two racers per team, F1 is an exclusive world to begin with. However, the F1 world is undergoing massive change, with the number of annual Grands Prix and broadcasting contracts coming under discussion.
What F1 seems to need at the moment is to figure out how to leverage their broadcast, sponsorship, and hosting fee earnings amongst the ten teams that participate annually. Their most recent foray into sponsorship and broadcasting came in the form of a recent Netflix series, titled Formula 1: Drive to Survive.