Sport today is a global phenomenon, with fans around the world dedicated to following their favourite team, watching the biggest league matches and celebrating when their side brings the trophies home. And a bonus for sports fans, as TV audiences continue to grow into the billions, betting on the most popular sporting events is a lucrative business.
Taking into account global reach, fan popularity as well as annual revenue, we give the lowdown on what are currently the biggest sporting leagues around the world.
While the National Football League may not command the biggest global audience share, the NFL is at the heart of America and commands a loyalty and fan base like no other. And with its history and iconic players’ hall of fame, this loyalty makes the NFL the world’s biggest sporting league in terms of profitability and revenue. 2019 saw the NFL make around $15 billion, which is all the more impressive when you consider the league has one of the shortest seasons for a spectator sport. And this wealth is spread down to its league teams. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, 29 are amongst the richest 50 sporting franchises, with the Dallas Cowboys currently the most valuable sporting franchise in the world.
The Premier League
Soccer’s English Premier League has what is widely considered to be the biggest international reach of any global sporting league, bringing some of the world’s best players to play for its leading teams, including Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. The Premier League is also the most profitable soccer league, bringing in around £5 billion a year. Soccer and the Premier League is also the most popular form of sports betting in the UK. And the beauty of the Premier League is the sheer volume of fans from around the world. Currently broadcast to over 200 countries and with a TV audience of an estimated 4.7 billion people, the Premier League is the most-watched sporting league in the world.
With its lucrative Chinese fanbase as well as its sizable US following, the National Basketball Association scores well as one of the world’s biggest sporting leagues. The 30 teams that play in the NBA make it the world’s premier basketball league. And from a financial perspective, the NBA’s fortunes are on the rise, increasing over the last five years to a total of $8 billion for its latest season. The NBA’s top teams are also amongst the most followed teams, with the LA Lakers, the Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Bulls coming out tops when it comes to worldwide fans.
The growing appeal of Major League Baseball across South America and around the world, makes the MLB one of the world’s biggest leagues based on gross revenue alone. In 2019 the league brought in almost $11 billion, making it the 17th consecutive year MLB had seen an increase in income. And the all-American, family appeal of baseball is continuing the golden appeal of the sport, from its glory days to the growing global fan base it is attracting today. Its history and track record of producing the best talent also means that the MLB continues to attract leading baseball players from across the US, Canada and all over the world, pursuing that fame-making perfect home run.