Top European Football Flights Dominate the World’s Most Valuable Leagues
Professional sports leagues are beloved around the world for many reasons — as fans, we get a rush watching the best athletes compete against one another. The thrill of one great performance or play turning around a match pins us to the edge of our seats.
Other times, the inspiring stories of clubs or athletes change us as individuals in profound ways.
Leagues offer another benefit for league executives, team owners, and players.
This means leagues are big businesses. Professional sports organizations have become one of the largest segments of the global entertainment industry. The world’s 10 most-profitable leagues combine to earn more than €50 billion annually.
The revenue pours in from a variety of sources including ticket sales, TV and streaming deals, corporate sponsorships, merchandise, transfers, and advertisers.
A wide range of sports is represented among the leagues that gross over €1 billion a year. They run the gamut from baseball to Formula One auto racing to ice hockey. The most consistent sport, however, is football.
That’s not surprising. Football, with an estimated 3.5 billion fans worldwide, is the planet’s most popular sport. In other words, nearly half of all humans identify as football fans.
Here’s a glimpse into the big money figures behind Europe’s four highest-grossing football leagues.
English Premier League
The top football tier of England and Wales is the world’s most lucrative football league. It’s also the most watched.
Some 978 million households tuned into EPL matches during the 2018-19 season while the league grossed $6.02 billion.
A healthy portion of EPL-wide revenue stems from a €16 billion TV contract inked in 2016. Proceeds from the deal are distributed evenly to all clubs in the league.
Meanwhile, clubs like Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Manchester United are iconic brands in the football world and command hundreds of millions of dollars on their own.
Anchored by prolific scorer Lionel Messi, and the two most valuable clubs in sports, Real Madrid (€3.8 billion) and Barcelona (€3.6 billion), Spain’s La Liga takes second place among top-grossing football leagues.
La Liga has taken an aggressive approach to expand its international visibility in recent years by opening offices in the US, Dubai, Nigeria, South America, and China. Matches are now broadcast in over 170 countries to a global audience exceeding two billion viewers.
The efforts are paying off nicely. La Liga generates around €4.5 billion in annual revenue.
Germany’s Bundesliga is another European league gaining impressive worldwide traction. A 2013 international TV rights deal with 21st Century Fox brought matches to 80 territories from Brazil to Japan.
Today, the Bundesliga can be seen in 200 countries. The league earns over €800 million on TV rights as part of its yearly €4 billion gross income. Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga’s 28-time champion, is worth €2.7 billion.
Despite slipping in profitability and profile over the decades, Italy’s Serie A claims perhaps the most valuable single commodity in football — Cristiano Ronaldo. The Juventus star is the most followed individual on Instagram and the sport’s first billionaire.
Ronaldo is elevating Serie A once again, and Juventus has overtaken Napoli as the most expensive club. The league eclipses €2 billion in annual revenue, the bulk of which comes from lucrative TV rights.
How Other Leagues Compare
North America holds a strong presence among the world’s most valuable leagues.
While the Premier League is the most valuable football league, the top spot among all leagues belongs to the National Football League (NFL).
The top tier of American football made €11.394 billion in 2019. Thanks to recent fan engagement movements like online sportsbooks with NFL betting, the NFL’s footprint is continuously evolving in the US.
Major League Baseball (€9.78 billion in annual revenue), the National Basketball Association (€6.27 billion), and the National Hockey League (€4.57 billion) are other North American organizations among the world’s most valuable leagues.