Sports are widely known to generate huge revenue, attracting millions of fans who watch matches both in venues and via TV or streams. But do you know which are the most profitable sports leagues?
Keep reading to find out this and much more!
10 Most Profitable Sports Leagues
National Football League (NFL)
- Revenue : $12.2 billion
- Founded: 1920
- Headquarters: New York City, USA
One of the most popular sports leagues globally and the highest revenue-generating one is the NFL. Total attendance went up as high as 16.67 million attendees in 2019 and an average attendance of 67,254 fans for their 2021 season.
The NFL has a total of 32 teams competing against each other. The Green Packers have the most NFL titles, having won nine NFL championships and four Super Bowls.
The richest sports league has two teams tied for the most Super Bowl wins – the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, with six SB titles each, while the Los Angeles Rams are the most recent Super Bowl winner.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
- Revenue: $3.66 billion
- Founded: 1903
- Headquarters: Midtown Manhattan, USA
30 teams have been playing against each other since 1903, and it attracts up to 45.3 million spectators. MLB is one of the biggest sports leagues in the world and produces an average attendance of 18,900 people.
With 27 titles, the New York Yankees hold the record for the most World Series championships won. The most recent winners of the MLB World Series championships are the Atlanta Braves.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
- Revenue: $7.92 billion
- Founded: 1949
- Headquarters: New York City, USA
Basketball games are usually among the most attended sports events, and the NBA is one of the most valuable sports leagues in the world. It boasts millions of fans in attendance each season, with the numbers dropping a bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to it, over 20 million people on average have enjoyed watching NBA games, with average attendance per game standing at close to 17,800. The latest data shows that during the current 2021/22 season, around 16,800 people on average have attended an NBA game.
There are two teams that have displayed great skills where they have earned 17 championship wins each: Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. The top player is Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics has 11 titles out of 12 NBA finals, while Phil Jackson is the most honoured among the coaches with 11 titles. The 2021 NBA championship game is the Milwaukee Bucks.
Indian Premier League (Cricket)
- Revenue: $4.4 billion (2020)
- Founded: 2008
- Headquarters: Mumbai, India
Despite cricket not being as popular as football or basketball, the Indian Premier League is one of the most valuable sports leagues. In 2019, over 3.4 million people have attended IPL matches, with the average attendance per game standing at over 58,000. The IPL attendance numbers have dropped since due to COVID-19 regulations that only allow stadiums to fill 25% of seats with spectators.
In total, ten IPL teams compete against each other during an IPL season. The most successful NPL team are the Mumbai Indians, who have a total of five titles, while the most recently crowned champions are the Chennai Super Kings.
Lasith Malinga is a top player with 390 wickets in 295 matches. He was the highest wicket-taker in the IPL with 170 wickets. Rohit Sharma won 6 titles in 13 leagues.
English Premier League
- Revenue: £2.3 billion
- Founded: 1992
- Headquarters: London, United Kingdom
The English Premier League is one of the top sports leagues in the world and the wage bills in the Premier League for some clubs are just insane. In the 2009-2019 period, somewhere between 13 and 14 million people attended English Premier League matches each season. As expected, the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to this number dropping to less than one million spectators in the 2020/21 season. However, this number is on the rise again, with 11.7 million in total attendance and around 35,600 spectators per game in the 2021-22 season. On average, close to 35,600 fans have attended an English Premier League game so far.
Manchester United F.C. is the leader in Premier League titles, having won 20 of them so far. This club is also the most recent winner of the Premier League, having won the title in the 2020/21 season.
National Hockey League (NHL)
- Revenue: $5.09 billion (2018/19), $4.4 billion (2019-2020)
- Founded: 1917
- Headquarters: New York, USA
NHL’s generated revenue was a whopping 5.09 billion in 2018, $4.4 billion in 2019. Hockey continues to gain a large attendance, even reaching 18.81 million in the 2019 season. They also have an average attendance of 17,423.
There are 32 teams in the NHL, with 25 US-based and seven Canada-based. The Montreal Canadiens have won the most Stanley Cups (24), while the most recent champions are the Tampa Bay Lighting, having won two Stanley Cups in a row (in 2020 and 2021).
Australian Football League
- Revenue: $27.9m (2019)
- Founded: 1896
- Headquarters: Melbourne, Australia
Some may not be aware, but Australian Football has its own kind of football and although it may not be one of the most viewed sports, it still generates a great amount of revenue. Sometimes also called “Aussies rules” or “footies”. Despite the game being native to Australia, it has generated $27.9 million in revenue in 2019 and had 1.07 million spectators.
Essendon and Carlton both have 16 premierships each, and Collingwood has achieved 15.
Melbourne won the premiership in 2021, and Richmond won last 2020.
La Liga (Spanish Football League)
- Revenue: $5.99 billion (2019/20)
- Founded: 1929
- Headquarters: Madrid, Spain
La Liga, or the Spanish Football League, has two richest football clubs in Europe (Barcelona and Real Madrid); it’s safe to say, it’s one of the richest sports leagues out there. As has happened to other sports leagues, attendance numbers at La Liga matches have dropped when since the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, with over 6.1 million spectators this season and over 22,300 per La Liga game, the attendance numbers of La Liga are on the rise again.
With 34 La Liga titles, FC Real Madrid is the team with most La Liga trophies. When it comes to the most recent La Liga title, Atletico Madrid is the crowned winner of the 2020/21 La Liga season.
Serie A (Italian Football League)
- Revenue: $2.5 billion (2018/19)
- Founded: 1898
- Headquarters: Milan, Italy
Serie A, or the Italian Football League, is one of Europe’s most valuable sports leagues in football, known as the “Big Five”. Over 4.8 million spectators have followed Serie A matches this season, with an average of 15,878 spectators per game.
Serie A’s top team is Juventus FC, having won 36 Serie A titles so far. Inter Milan, the most recent Serie A champion, has managed to break Juventus’ record of nine consecutive Serie A wins.
Ligue 1 (France Football League)
- Revenue: £1.6 billion (2020/21)
- Founded: 1932
- Headquarters: Paris, France
Another huge football league is the Ligue 1 with a £1.6 billion revenue last 2020. It boasts an attendance of 6.2 million last 2019 and has an average attendance of 22,529. However, since one of the best number 10 players in the world, Lionel Messi, made a transfer to PSG, these numbers will surely go up in the future.
Saint-Étienne is Ligue 1’s leader in terms of Ligue 1 titles, having won ten of them so far. The most recent Ligue 1 champions are Lille.
Keep Going, Keep Winning
Seeing the list of the most profitable sports leagues in the world, we can conclude that most of them generate revenue from broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals. We can also conclude that sports such as football, basketball, and baseball bring in the most revenue. We hope you found our article useful in discovering which are the richest sports leagues in the world.