People all over the world like sports. People like sports so much, in fact, that they’re willing to spend vast amounts of money watching, gambling on, and supporting their personal favorites. As a result of this influx of fiscal activity — and the fact that there will always be a demand for people who are insanely good at athletic feats to do them for the amusement of the rest of us — some of the teams that occupy the highest echelons of the sports kingdom see their worth balloon so vastly that they become, for lack of a better term, behemoth. Ubiquitous. Known across lands far and wide for being good sometimes and always visible.
That’s not to say that some of these teams have a presence that belies their actual results on the fields, pitches, and gridirons, although that can certainly be the case when one or more of these teams are bad. No, it’s more of an insight into which teams resonate the most with fan bases, especially considering the fact that while some of these franchises are undoubtedly global in scope, some of them seem so particularly localized that it’s almost a shock to see them on this list at all.
As this is a worldwide, all-inclusive sports reckoning, these really are the 10 most lucrative sports collectives on the planet. Hat tip to Forbes for the figures.
10. Boston Red Sox: $1.5 billion
The most lucrative underdogs in all of professional sports, the Boston Red Sox — despite their outward appearance as “that team that’s not the evil empire, those big-spending, money-grubbing Yankees” — are not exactly paupers themselves. After three World Series wins in the last decade, they’ve been more successful than the other half of the most famous American rivalry in sports, and the Red Sox have spent almost as much money (there isn’t a single look at team expenses that doesn’t have them hot on the heels of Steinbrenner’s crew). Despite their appeal to blue-collar modesty, the Red Sox remain one of the most valuable sports franchises on the planet.
9. New York Giants: $1.55 billion
Along with the Red Sox, the Giants look positively victorious — that says a lot, since the New York squad has been just as representative of “nobody believes in us” as their Boston corollaries on their way to becoming NFL champions three times since 1990. But the Giants are New York’s team, along with the Jets (sort of), even if they both play their games in New Jersey. The Giants, though, are significantly more successful than their counterparts, and the self-proclaimed team for “metropolitan New York” has an overall net worth that reflects their place as the football face of one of the media capitals of the world.
The Giants are not the only football team (American football) on this list, by the way — not by a long shot. They are, however, the only team on this list that features Eli Manning, and the highs and the lows that come with that Manning sibling are impressive in the breadth of their scope: Super Bowls run hand in hand with historically awful seasons. Perhaps no team so consistently showcases the extreme ends of sports fandom in surreal victory and crushing defeat as the New York Giants.
8. Washington Redskins: $1.7 billion
No wonder Dan Snyder’s in no hurry to change the team’s name, even at the behest of half the Senate. As the second most valuable football team in the NFL, the Redskins should probably just buy their own personal money printer. Situated in Washington, D.C., the franchise’s worth has accumulated in spite of the fact that the team has largely been horrible over the last 20 years. That’s a fact that looks unlikely to change after potential franchise savior Robert Griffin III, who cost the Washington football team a king’s ransom in assets, spent all of last year looking like a shell of himself after blowing out his knee in 2012.
7. New England Patriots: $1.8 billion
The Patriots, in addition to holding sway over New England, have been perennial Super Bowl contenders for the last decade, and nothing brings out the dollars like continued success. Since the NFL is all but immune to losing money (which is why the league can afford to keep professional sports teams in places like Green Bay), the Patriots don’t look likely to move very far from this list. Even if they haven’t actually won anything since Spygate. Sorry, but it’s true.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers: $2 billion
As for the Dodgers, well, they’re the home team for one of the biggest cities in the United States, and even with baseball’s appeal holding even, to put it charitably, the team is still worth a metric ton of money. The Dodgers are looking to make it past the NLCS for the first time since 1988, when they last won a World Series. They are also, famously, owned in part by Magic Johnson, a member of one of the prospective ownership groups vying to buy the Los Angeles Clippers.
5. Dallas Cowboys: $2.3 billion
4. New York Yankees: $2.5 billion
We’re pairing these two teams together because when it comes to the twin ideals of American athletics, success, and lavishness, they’re two that stand alone. Fittingly, they’re worth close to the same amount of money. The Cowboys and the Yankees are both adored for their aura of victory and detested by absolutely everyone else, even and especially when they’re losing — something the two squads have done a lot more of than winning in recent years. That’s unlikely to stop people from getting the famous Yankees logo tattoo, of course, and Tony Romo will continue to fluster Dallas fans for at least a few more years. Both these teams mean something, in that italicized way, that really has nothing to do with their on-field success.
And no one would have it any other way, not the haters nor the fans. When the Yankees stop being the Yankees, it’ll be a sad day indeed. It is interesting to note, though, that even the Cowboys and the Bronx Bombers can’t out-value the biggest clubs in the biggest sport in the world.
3. Manchester United: $2.8 billion
The winningest sports team in the English Premier League, Manchester United (NYSE:MANU) is also the only publicly traded team you’ll find on this list — though the 20-cup winning franchise was largely owned by Malcolm Glazer until his death on Wednesday May 28th. Man United has been in existence since 1878 and should not be confused with the similarly named Manchester City, although it should be noted that Manchester City won the 2014 Premier League title, while Manchester United did not. Even if Man U is worth considerably more money. Which it is.
2. Barcelona: $3.2 billion
That’s right, another football team. Er, make that another soccer team. Barca, who have an incredible number of fans on the Internet and players who are famous enough to go by single names, a la Prince, (check them out in the YouTube video below), have leveraged their continued success in La Liga, the highest level of Spanish football in the same way that the English Premier League is the highest level of English play, has seen them resist relegation (aka being moved down from one league to another) while accumulating vast quantities of fans from all over the globe.
1. Real Madrid: $3.4 billion
That’s right: The three most valuable sports organizations in the world are all soccer teams. Real Madrid, the most massive of the lot, has been the Spanish capital city’s football club since the turn of the 20th century, and it generates the most revenue out of any sports team in the world. Real Madrid pulled in more than $670 million in 2013, a number that far outstripped their $175 million operating costs. They are, as to be expected, perennially successful.