There has never been a better time in history to be a big-time player in international professional sports leagues. More people, thanks to television contracts and the marvel that is the Internet, are following competitions such as the National Football League, Barclays Premier League, National Basketball Association and so many other leagues than at any other time. Media rights deals are helping to make athletes rich and owners who are already worth hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars richer. The only big downfall with sports is that the average fan who does not have a fortune in the bank is priced out of attending events.
That is a different topic for a different day.
Forbes released its list for the most valuable sports teams of 2015 on July 15, and the club that is at the very top of the list should not be a surprise to anybody who has been following the business of international sports over the past several years. While North American teams that compete in league such as Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL are mentioned throughout the top 20 spots of the list, it is the beautiful game that once again rules the sports kingdom as it pertains to what, in the long run, matters most to those who make the important decisions; money and business.
T20. Chicago Bears: $1.7 Billion
There are some cases in sports where history means more than does that franchise achieve recent successes. The Chicago Bears are one of the most storied franchises in the history of the United States, but it has been 30 years since the Bears won the Super Bowl. Add in that Chicago has not won a conference championship in a decade, and it would be easy to be down on the Bears. Oh, and then there is that whole Jay Cutler debacle. Are we sure somebody would pay over $1 billion for these Bears (spoiler: Somebody absolutely would).
T20. Boston Celtics: $1.7 Billion
The last few years have not been the brightest days for the Boston Celtics, and the immediate future for the club does not all that promising. Saying that is not necessarily a knock on the Celtics, as both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls are, as of the summer of 2015, more likely to contend for a championship next season than are the Celtics. Do not completely despair, Boston basketball fans, because you have a good leader in head coach Brad Stevens. Stevens refused to play dead and phone the season in last winter when the campaign was all but lost for the Celtics, and he has the goods to help the club make a return to glory sooner than later.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: $1.75 Billion
Here is one thing we know for sure that we will be able to say about the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles: That is one NFL franchise that is going to be fascinating to follow during the second half of the year. Chip Kelly is now more than just an eccentric head coach willing to experiment with interesting offensive formations and with holding signs to communicate his calls from the sidelines. He is now the czar and the emperor of the Eagles regarding what we will see from the players on the field. Kelly is either going to help revolutionize professional football, or he is going to sink like the Titanic. Sign me up for a front row seat either way.
T17. New York Jets: $1.8 Billion
The little brothers of New York professional football are, on paper, again behind the New York Giants in the hunt for a Super Bowl trophy as training camps set to open up. Playing in the top sports market in the United States certainly increases the overall value of the New York Jets, but it is the product on the field that could disappoint a diehard fan base for another season. The Jets have again hit the figurative reset button with a coaching change, and the team is still looking for a franchise quarterback. Gang Green fans are growing tired of waiting for the Jets to win it all. We’ve seen empty seats at MetLife Stadium during Jets games in recent history. The time to begin a turnaround has come for the Jets.
T17. Chicago Cubs: $1.8 Billion
The term “Lovable Losers” in any sports dictionary brings with it the team logo and description of the Chicago Cubs. Some, including New York sports talk radio legend Mike Francesa, saw the Cubs as being World Series favorites back during the spring months before a first meaningful pitch had been thrown. The Cubs are, as of the posting of this piece, very much in the playoff hunt, but things have not completely gone to plan to date this year. You have to give those running the club credit, because they are trying to build a true winner by making solid offseason moves.
16. Houston Texans: $1.85 Billion
Everything is bigger in Texas, or so teaches the adage, and that is currently the case for the hype of a certain defensive player who is being handsomely paid by the Houston Texans. That tidbit is not to suggest that J.J. Watt is not a fantastic player who has done well to increase his marketability and also cash in on a massive NFL contract over the past couple of years. The Watt love-train left the station some time ago, but a Houston Super Bowl victory will not be following anytime soon unless the Texans find a true franchise quarterback in free agency or via an NFL Draft.
T14. San Francisco Giants: $2 Billion
North American sports leagues such as Major League Baseball are built upon structures of parity that are supposed to give every team a chance to win a championship each season. Somebody forgot to give the San Francisco Giants the memo, as the Giants are currently on a run that has seen the club be the best of the best every other year. A different side should theoretically win it all come this fall, but San Francisco will likely have something to say about that by the time October rolls around. The Giants are one of the most stable franchises located in the United States in 2015, and they play in a great baseball market.
T14. Chicago Bulls: $2 Billion
Chicago is truly a tremendous sports town for many reasons. Local fans follow their clubs year in and year out even during letdown seasons, and that has especially been the case with the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have yet to take that “next step” and ascend into Eastern Conference greatness as have the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers over the past five years. While the Bulls have a solid foundation that could make for a championship roster, all eyes will still be on Cleveland and on LeBron James. The Bulls have not been able to top James when it has mattered most. Will that change in the spring of 2016?
T12. New York Giants: $2.1 Billion
The New York Giants represent the top franchise in the top sports market in the top league in all of the United States. One might expect the club to have even more value in 2015, not that it would matter. Do not expect the Giants to go up on the market anytime soon. Along with being one of the most storied franchises located in North America, the Giants have also managed to conduct business properly and win/lose with class for decades. It would not be a stretch to suggest that every NFL team could learn at least a little something from Big Blue.
T12. Boston Red Sox: $2.1 Billion
The hottest ticket in town during the summer months has been a significant letdown in 2015. Some had predicted that the Boston Red Sox would experience an immediate turnaround and become a championship contender this Major League Baseball season, but that has not occurred. The team’s poor record has not negatively affected business at the ballpark, as Red Sox tickets are off of the market long before fans know what to expect from the players that take the field. The overall value of the club is only going to rise over the next decade assuming that the team gets a shiny new ballpark at some point during that time.
11. Bayern Munich: $2.35 Billion
There is no soccer club in Germany that can rival Bayern Munich in many ways. Bayern are far and away the most valuable team in the Bundesliga. The current kings of German club soccer are showing no signs of relinquishing that crown anytime soon. Along with other streams of revenue that the club rakes in, Bayern are also mainstays in the Champions League. Stability. Success. Money. The days of Bayern being worth less than $2 billion are well into the past, and it seems inevitable that the club will crack into the top ten of such lists soon, perhaps as quickly as next year.
T9. Washington Redskins: $2.4 Billion
The Washington Redskins could possibly be the most polarizing club in this list. Washington has made headlines for plenty of reasons that have had little to do with the team winning games as of late, and multiple problems hovering over the team have had to do with owner Dan Snyder. For reasons that only he understands at this point of the conversation, Snyder is refusing to give up the “Redskins” nickname that is offensive in the eyes of some. “Redskins” is going to disappear in time. Snyder will, when that day arrives, have to explain why he did not make the move years before he was forced to do so by an entity.
T9. Los Angeles Dodgers: $2.4 Billion
It literally pays and pays big to call a big market home, even if you are involved in what critics have referred to as a “dying sport” such as baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers put pen to paper on an incredible and massive media right deal back in 2013, one that is set to be worth around $7 billion over a span of 25 years. Fans of the Dodgers have felt feelings of frustration due to having to sit back and watch the Giants win multiple championships over the current decade, but they should not be overly concerned. The Dodgers are in fine shape in several ways.
8. New York Knicks: $2.5 Billion
The New York Knicks will one day figure it out and be the kings of the National Basketball Association. Madison Square Garden will again be rocking and be the “Mecca” of basketball and of sports in the United States. Today is not that day, however, and that day is does not appear to be in the foreseeable future from what fans and analysts have seen from those running the organization. The Knicks are, for lack of a better word, a mess in the summer of 2015, well behind the best teams that will be atop the NBA standings next season. The franchise is worth so much because of where it plays, but that does not mean that buying the Knicks in 2015 would make for a wise investment.
T6. New England Patriots: $2.6 Billion
No other National Football League franchise has managed to even come close to figuring out the parity structure of the league as have the New England Patriots. New England has evolved into as much of a dynasty as you will see in the NFL in the era of salary caps, franchise tags and free agency, and the Patriots will be a favorite to win the Super Bowl and defend the team’s championship in 2015. Do not let anything about the “Deflate-Gate” story affect your overall feelings of the franchise. No NFL team is worth as much as the Patriots as of July 2015 and with good reason.
T6. Los Angeles Lakers: $2.6 Billion
For everything, there is a season. A time to be born. A time to die. A time to compete for NBA Championships. A time to say goodbye to a legend, ride out the storm and then rebuild. The legendary “Showtime” era and the days of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal dominating the league on a yearly basis seem like long ago, as the Lakers are now awaiting for Bryant to ride off into the sunset before the club can truly begin to right the ship. The Los Angeles Clippers are the kings of LA basketball at the moment, but those teams will eventually swap roles yet again.
5. Manchester United: $3.1 Billion
The Barclays Premier League has managed to captivate the hearts and minds of viewers all around the world unlike any other sports league, and Manchester United continues to be the top brand in that league even though the BPL table says differently. Clubs such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have done well to branch out and build fan bases outside of England, but none have the value had by United in 2015. The worth of the club is going to rise regardless, but manager Louis van Gaal making United a champion yet again will only help matters if he is able to achieve that mission.
4. Barcelona: $3.16 Billion
Those who are diehard followers of the sport of soccer may be surprised to see that the kings of club soccer for 2014-15 are not higher on the list. A year after Barcelona were, according to some, in a mode of “crisis,” Barcelona completed the treble of winning La Liga, the domestic cup competition and also the Champions League. Rivals Real Madrid were left in the dust and in the shadows as Barca hogged all of the glory, and worldwide superstars Lionel Messi and Neymar are two of the most-marketable athletes on the planet. Life is good at the Nou Camp these days.
T2. New York Yankees: $3.2 Billion
There are a handful of sports franchises known all around the world just because of their names. The New York Yankees are undeniably one of them. Travel throughout any major city located in the United States, Canada, parts of Europe and even Australia, and it is likely that you will see at least one person sporting a Yankees cap. The Yankees are a different kind of dynasty and the top sports franchise in United States history even though the club is no longer the “Evil Empire.” Every team owner in North America, even the next on the list, wants his franchise to mirror the Yankees.
T2. Dallas Cowboys: $3.2 Billion
With George Steinbrenner no longer with us, it is safe to say that there is no owner in North American professional sports on the level dominated by Jerry Jones. The ruler of the Dallas Cowboys is eccentric, energetic and maybe even a bit misunderstood by those on the outside who would characterize Jones as being “crazy.” Along with having more value than any other NFL team, the Cowboys also play in the monstrosity of a venue that is referred to as “Jerry’s World.” Is there anybody out there who believes Jones would sell the Cowboys for even $3.5 billion in 2015? No? Didn’t think so.
1. Real Madrid: $3.26 Billion
Real Madrid are the latest giant of a club to be reminded of the fact that the sports world can turn fickle in a hurry. The kings of club football in June of 2014 were brought down the earth this past European football season, as a trophy-less campaign that was coupled with Barcelona completing a treble saw manager Carlo Ancelotti make an unceremonious exit from the team. It is now on Rafa Benitez to help Madrid make an immediate return to glory and to winning titles while at the same time keeping Cristiano Ronaldo and other egos inside of that dressing room happy. Best of luck, Mr. Benitez. You will probably need it.