Poor is a relative term in professional sports. Some teams, and even some entire leagues, seem to be practically printing money. The Toronto Maple leafs have been lackluster for years, but that doesn’t stop fans from shelling out an average ticket price of $120 (the highest ticket price in the NHL) to see them get trounced at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs are valued at $1.15 billion: The team had an operating income of $48.7 million and revenue of $142 million in the 2012-2013 season, according to Forbes. These numbers make the team the most financially successful in not only the NHL, but in all of the pro sports teams in Canada.
With hockey being the least popular of the ‘big four’ sports in North America, even the most financially viable team in the NHL can’t match the dollars and cents of teams in the NBA, MLB and especially the NFL. The New York Yankees, the most valuable team in the MLB at $2.5 billion, are so cash rich they can practically afford to buy championships. The same can be said for the second most valuable team in the NBA; the Los Angeles Lakers are worth $1.35 billion, which is second to only the $1.4 billion valued New York Knicks. The NFL is by far the most successful professional sports league in North America when it comes to earnings: Only nine of the league’s 32 teams are worth less than $1 billion, and only four are worth less than $900 million. The least valuable team in the NFL, the Buffalo Bills, is still worth a whopping $870 million. The most valuable team in the NFL is the Dallas Cowboys with a market value of $2.3 billion.
Comparing the values of pro soccer teams in North America and Europe, there’s a noticeable difference. Soccer is the leading sport in Europe, and the money reflects this: Real Madrid is currently valued at $3.44 billion, while MLS’ most valuable team, the Seattle Sounders, is worth a mere $175 million in comparison. However, it’s not all sunshine and roses for every major sporting league in the world. Some teams are worth just a tiny fraction of what other professional teams in the same realm are worth. Here’s a look at eleven of the very poorest professional sports teams in the world – the money might seem pretty big, but relative to the value of the league itself, and the other teams in the league, these eleven are worth very little.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets $175 million
Being worth $175 million in a lot of sports leagues would be impressive, but in the NHL it’s a bit pitiful – the Toronto Maple Leafs are worth nearly a billion dollars more. At least the Blue Jackets turned a paltry profit in the 2012-13 season, raking in $4.9 million in revenue. The next eleven least valuable NHL teams all lost money that season.
10. Newcastle United FC $102 million
While the value of the team has more than doubled since 2011, Newcastle Utd. is still the least valuable team in the Barclay’s Premier League. One of the team’s historic rivals, Manchester United FC (worth $739 million), is worth more than seven times that of Newcastle United FC.
9. Columbus Crew $73 million
The city of Columbus just can’t catch a break when it comes to the value of its sports teams. While the Columbus Crew isn’t the least valuable team in the MLS, they’re definitely close to the bottom of the list. Like the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is the least valuable team in the NHL, the Crew is worth just a fraction of Major League Soccer’s most valuable team – the Seattle Sounders is worth over $100 million more than the Crew.
8. DC United $71 million
With an operating income of negative $2.8 million in the 2012-13 season, DC United was not one of the 10 teams in the 19-team MLS that turned a profit. The MLS has grown substantially since its inception, but not all teams have seen the same financial success as the Sounders of LA Galaxy.
7. Chivas USA $64 million
With a market value of $64 million, Chivas USA based in Carson, California is the least valuable MLS team. Its revenue was $15 million during the 2012-13 season – significantly less than the $48 million the Sounders generated.
6. Delhi Daredevils $40 million
The Indian Premier League is one of the fastest growing sports leagues in the world, and that trend is expected to continue for years to come. Cricket is extremely popular the world over, but right now IPL teams are in the early stages of their earning potential. With a brand value of $40 million, the Delhi Daredevils are worth significantly less than the league’s most valuable team: the Chennai Super kings, who stand at $72 million.
5. Kings XI Punjab $32 million
With sponsors like Indian car company Tata Motors and food manufacturer Britannia Industries, Kings XI Punjab has managed to obtain a brand value of about $32 million – a comparatively low sum when we compare this to the $72 million of their contemporaries, the Chennai Super Kings.
4. Sunrisers Hyderabad $25 million
Things may change as the league grows, but right now the Sunrisers Hyderabad is the least valuable IPL team with a brand value of just $25 million. By 2020 the league itself is expected to be worth $400 billion: Let’s see if Sunrisers Hyderabad can keep up with the competition.
3. Canberra Raiders $14.8 million
The Australian National Rugby league is one of the foremost rugby leagues in the world, but its financial troubles are worrisome: Only two rugby clubs in the entire league are self-sustaining. With a brand value of $14.8 million, the Raiders is one of the poorest performing teams financially in the league, but it stays afloat thanks to a property trust and revenue from slot machines.
2. Sydney Roosters $14.5 million
As the least valuable team in the NRL the Sydney Roosters have been left behind financially. The most valuable team in the league, the Penrith Panthers, has a brand value of nearly $43 million in comparison.
1. Melbourne FC $14 million
Unlike rugby or cricket, Australian Rules Football is unlikely to see much interest from fans outside of Australia, but that hasn’t stopped the sport’s main league from burgeoning in its home country. Unfortunately Melbourne FC is being left in the dust. With a brand value of $14.5 million it’s the least valuable team in the AFL. The league’s most valuable team, the Collingwood Magpies, have a brand value more than double that of Melbourne FC at over $36 million.