When sports fans in North America think about sports teams that make money, they usually think baseball, American football, and hockey – though the latter comes in far behind the first two in terms of revenue (typically, soccer slips their minds – but it’s the biggest generator of revenue in sports in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere too). Team sports have a long and checkered history, with leagues being created and dismantled, clubs changing names, rules and equipment being updated, and ticket prices and players’ salaries changing and, indeed, increasing greatly over the years. When Babe Ruth played baseball, according to NBC Sports Hardball Talk, he made a maximum of $1.4 million after adjusting for inflation (around $80,000 in those days). Not bad at all – but in 2013, Derek Jeter made $17 million, and Alex Rodriguez made $28 million.
Was Babe hard-done-by, or have sports stars’ salaries just gotten altogether out of hand? Perhaps, the evolution of sporting salaries has more to do with the increasing popularity and diffusion of high profile sports, the celebrity status of the players and the attendant sponsorship and investment from which sports teams benefit. With the incredible money earned by sports stars today, and by the teams themselves, the sporting business is without doubt one of the wealthiest in the world.
Each year Forbes magazine puts out a list of the 50 most valuable sports teams, in terms of real dollar value – the more abstract sort of ‘value’ would, of course, be subjective and would certainly be up for debate between different fans. But whether you’re a fan of the following teams or not, they are officially the teams who are making the most money. Did your team make it into the top 10?
10. New York Giants: $1.55 billion
Founded when American football was barely yet popular, the New York Football Giants, Inc. cost $500 when Tim Mara began things – a far cry from their present value! Mara took one for the team when he handed things off to his sons in 1930 to avoid creditors. Since then it’s been an upwards momentum for the mammoth team, who, even with a long drought in the 1960s and 70s, has the longest season-tickets waiting list of any franchise, at 135,000. The third-highest holder of NFL titles with eight, the “jints” as they’re colloquially called have the most championship appearances in football. Their business savvy is largely responsible for revenue sharing, still practiced today, which has greatly strengthened the league.
9. Washington Redskins: $1.7 billion
Formerly the Boston Redskins, this DC metropolitan team has been in the news lately because their team name and logo, chosen in very different political times, have come up against severe criticism from some. Although the bulk of Americans disagree with changing the name and logo, the US patent office recently voted to cancel the team’s trademarks, as they were judged “disparaging to Native Americans.” The first to have a marching band and a team fight song (“Hail to the Chiefs”), these guys know how to rustle up good feeling and support. With five NFL championships, the Redskins are not immune to victory!
8. New England Patriots: $1.8 billion
The Boston Patriots were formed in 1960 by businessman Billy Sullivan. Formerly AFL, they became part of the NFL when the leagues merged in 1970. After moving to Foxborough, MA, they were renamed the New England Patriots. Third in Superbowl appearances with seven (the Cowboys and Steelers have eight), this super team hasn’t had a losing season since 2000, when current head coach Bill Belichick was hired. Referencing any decade in American football history, the Patriots broke the record for most wins in a decade in 2010, and have since broken their own record twice. Their most recent Super Bowl victory was in 2005. They’ve made it to the Super Bowl two times since then, but lost to the New York Giants both times.
7. Bayern Munich: $1.85 billion
With a membership increase of almost 30,000 in the past year alone, this club started out as the underdogs in 1900. Formed by 11 members of a Munich gymnastics club when it was decided the footballers in the club would not be able to join the German Football Association, the new group of Bayern Munich immediately became victors, trouncing the opposition in its first few months. Since then, the club has survived two world wars, the second of which halted things completely, as both president and head coach were Jews. Now the most successful club in German football history, this team has the second-largest membership in the entire world. They recently won their first FIFA World Cup title.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers: $2 billion
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, the Robins were founded in 1883. One of America’s oldest ball teams, they became the Dodgers by 1932 and moved to LA in the 50s. Their current home field, Dodger Stadium, is the third-oldest Major League stadium. With six World Series titles, this beloved team isn’t dodging anything. They have produced 12 Rookies of the Year with the longest streaks for this feat, twice. With pitchers like Sandy Koufax in the 50s/60s, and Fernando Valenzuela in the 80s, this team has the oldest rivalry in baseball history with the San Francisco Giants. Both were originally New-York based, during which time the Giants were king. After the Dodgers left New York, the reverse has been true.
5. Dallas Cowboys: $2.3 billion
Do critics of the Redskins name truly feel it is demeaning, or is it because in an old-fashioned game (stress old-fashioned; no one here is touting political incorrectness) of Cowboys and Indians, the Cowboys come out ahead in American football? Sharing the record for most Super Bowl appearances with the Steelers (8), this team is the only NFL team to record 20 winning seasons straight. In that time they missed the playoffs just twice, a record that remains unchallenged today. The wealthiest of the NFL teams, in 2013 this was deemed the second-highest US sports franchise in terms of value.
4. New York Yankees: $2.5 billion
Who can hear “Yankees” without wanting to go to Yankee Stadium (no longer the original) and eat a hot dog with everything on it while dreaming up ghosts like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio? Originally founded in Maryland as the Baltimore Orioles, this team has superseded that two-year stint into a New York legend now more than a century old. One of the most successful teams in professional sports history and the highest-valued US sports franchise, the Yankees have won 27 World Series and 18 division titles. These are both MLB records.
3. Manchester United: $2.81 billion
Traded on the New York Stock Exchange as well as the London Stock Exchange, this popular team is the most successful of all English football clubs, with the most League titles. Formed in 1878, they’ve had their present name since 1902 and have been in their present location since 1910 – that’s some history! The team was the first to win the “Treble” in one season: In the 1988-89 season, they took the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. You know the Brits take their footie seriously: Sir Alex Ferguson, team manager from 1986 to 2013, was knighted for his service to football.
2. Barcelona: $3.2 billion
Officially Futbol Club Barcelona, this team is known colloquially as Barça. Based in the Spanish city by the same name, the club has been around since 1899. On July 30 a Forbes headline illustrated how very successful this team is: “FC Barcelona Reports Record Revenue Topping $700 Million.” This marks the highest annual income in the history of team sports, ever! With the largest fan base in the world on all major social networks (anything to do with Messi?), an $800 million renovation of the Nou Camp stadium was approved by member owners or “socios” in April. In 2017 a roof will be added and more than 5,000 additional seats will bring capacity to 105,000. Olé!
1. Real Madrid: $3.44 billion
Originally founded under the name Madrid Football Club in 1902, the addition of Real, Spanish for “Royal,” was bestowed on the team in 1920 by the king at the time, Alfonso XIII. Until the most recent report of Barcelona’s revenue for the last year, Real Madrid pulled in the most income annually of all football clubs. David Beckham was once a player for this club, which currently has familiar names such as Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. This club is said to have firmly established themselves in the 1950s, and they’ve been going strong ever since.