The 3 Most Profitable Sports in Asia

Sport is a global cultural institution, as witnessed by World Cup tournaments, the Olympics and other international events. An enormous Asian market is shifting the flow of sport, providing massive new audiences for televised sports as the economies of the region continue to grow. This can be seen in the major football leagues in Europe, particularly the English Premier League and the Indian Premier League cricket competition, which has added the essence of “Bollywood” into cricket world-wide. Here we look at the three most profitable sports in Asia.

Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB)

Founded in 1950, Nippon Professional Baseball has a long way to go to match major league baseball, yet Japan’s longstanding pro baseball league has gained far more annual revenue than any other Asian sports organisation, with estimates ranging around USD1.5 billion. In addition, Nippon’s two most popular teams, the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants, are both valued over USD1 billion.

2020 is expected to see the NPB draw in vast numbers of new fans as the league restarted in June, long before the US MLB.  Online sportsbooks including are providing in-depth information about the NPB which features 12 teams split across the Central League and the Pacific League with teams that include former MLB players such as Adam Jones, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Matt Moore playing in Pacific League teams. Add in improved media rights and the value of the NPB could skyrocket even as the MLB restarts.

Indian Premier League (IPL) 

Cricket receives very little coverage in the occidental regions, but the Indian Premier League, founded in 2007, is as popular in India and other countries in Asia as the English Premier League is in the West. Cricket’s top league has a brand value of USD6.8 billion in 2019 up seven per cent from 2018, according to consultancy firm Duff and Phelps. With the new season due to start in the UAE in September, the choice of sponsor is hard-fought, with the expressions of interest being considered not so much for monetary value, but the impact the winning company will have on the league’s brand value.

The IPL’s most valuable team is the Mumbai Indians, worth INR8.09bn (USD108m). Having the richest Indian as their owner and based in the country’s cricket capital have only compounded their success. In second place is Chennai worth INR7.32bn (USD97.9m) then Kolkata Knight Riders which saw value fall more than eight per cent to INR6.29bn (USD84m), similar to the Royal Challengers with the current value at INR5.95bn (USD79.5m).

Indian Super League (ISL)

Launched in 2013, the Indian Super League is now established as a top-tier football league in Asia and has become increasingly popular each year even though the country is a not a footballing nation. The success of the ISL comes from its broadcasting to more than 100 countries worldwide while streaming to over 160 and at the end of the 2019-20 season in seven languages, enabling the league to record a 51 per cent increase in viewer numbers. ISL is still new, but with sponsorship including Tata Group-owned Jamshedpur FC and JSW Sports-owned Bengaluru FC, the future looks very strong, even with tough competition from the more popular European leagues. The league has already grown from eight to 10 teams, with debates ongoing about another team joining for the 2020/21 season. Going forward, ISL aims to develop a sustainable fan base on the back of local heroes, attract world-class talent and launch a robust grassroots training programme. FIFA Under 17 will be particularly important in this growth in popularity and profit.

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