Top 12 richest sports in the world

Sports is something that unites the world, it can provide a person with immense joy or sorrow in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t just matter to the athlete performing, but also to the millions of people who are watching and supporting the said athlete or team. Over the years, a lot of millionaires have come out of various fields of sport.

The amount of money an athlete makes depends on the sport. In this article, we will have a look at which sport makes the most money and is the most popular around the world.

12. Volleyball

Featuring at number twelve in our list is the game that originated in Massachusetts, USA. Volleyball is a six-a-side game and is played by both genders. The game was termed as a “Girls Sport” early on but it was a huge misconception. Over the past years, the sport has grown a lot and is now one of the most-watched sports in the world. The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) is the official governing body of the sport.

Volleyball has grown so much over the last 10 years that there are now many new variants of the sport. Teqball, Beach Volleyball are two of the most popular variants of the sport apart from the usual 6v6 games.

   Volleyball
Industry Value$ 261 million (approx)
 Average Salary$ 40,000 (yearly)
Governing BodyFédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB)
Most Popular inSouth America, Asia, Europe
Popular variants of the game6 v 6 (default matches), Beach Volleyball, Mixed Volleyball, etc
Important TournamentsVolleyball World Championships, Volleyball World League, Volleyball Men’s World Cup, FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup
Olympic sportYes
Some popular athletes            Sergio Dutra Santos Libero, Maxim Mikhaylov,Wilfredo Leon

11. Cycling

Cycling, at number eleven narrowly missed out on the top ten richest sports in the world. Cycling is one of the most popular activities in the world and lots of people even incorporate it in their day to day lives.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the body that governs the sport of Cycling. Probably the most popular cycling race known is the Tour de France which is one of  the most demanding and challenging races for any cyclist participating in it. Cycling is also an Olympic event and has indoor races as well including variants like relay and team cycling events.

It is estimated that worldwide the Industry value of the sport is around a whopping $57 billion but this does include the equipment, gears and the bicycle itself.

   Cycling
Industry Value$57 billion (approx)
Average Salary$60,000
Governing BodyUnion Cycliste Internationale (UCI)
Most popular inEurope
Popular Variants of the gameCross-country, Mountain Cycling, Indoor Cycling
Important TournamentsTour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, UCI Road World Championships
Olympic SportYes
Some popular athletesLance Armstrong,Bernard Hinault,Chris Froome

10. Boxing

Boxing is another popular sport and comes in as the tenth richest sport in the world. There have been a lot of great boxers from the past who are still idols to many young men and women around the world. Boxers like Mohammed Ali, Floyd Mayweather, etc. earned a lot of money and fame inside the squared circle. 

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is the chief governing body for Amateur boxing whereas the WBA (World Boxing Association), WBC (World Boxing Council), IBF (International Boxing Federation), WBO (World Boxing Organization) govern the professional boxing circuit.

Boxers compete in various weight classes like flyweight, lightweight, heavyweight and Super heavyweight. The approximate industry value is around $400 million and is increasing every year. Las Vegas is regarded as the home for professional boxing.

   Boxing 
Industry Value$400 million (approx)
Average Salary $1000-$5000 for amateur boxers (per fight)  $5000+ for professional boxers (per fight)
Governing BodyAIBA (Amateur), WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO
Most popular inThe United States of America
Popular Variants of the gameAmateur and Professional Boxing 
Important TournamentsAIBA Continental Championships, AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships, AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships, Olympic Games
Olympic SportYes (Amateur Boxing)
Some popular athletesMohammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao

9. Automobile Racing

Automobile Racing is one of the richest sport in the world. The industry value for it is estimated to be around $5 billion (USD). The most famous variant of Automobile Racing is Formula 1. NASCAR is another very popular variant that is famous all around the world.

Each variant of Automobile racing is governed by separate Governing bodies and there is no singular body. In 2014, the Automobile racing industry made another important breakthrough by introducing races for electric cars and the term Formula E was born.  

  Automobile Racing
Industry Value$5 billion (approx)
Average Salary$70,000 (yearly)
Governing BodyFormula One World Championship Limited (Formula One), The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC (NASCAR)
Most popular inWorldwide, NASCAR (USA), Drag Racing (Japan)
Popular Variants of the gameDrag racing, Stock car racing, Sports car racing, Rallying, Off-road racing
Important TournamentsF1 Championship Calendar Formula E championship Calendar NASCAR Championship
Olympic SportNo
Some popular athletesLewis Hamilton, Sabastian Vettel, Michael, Jeff Gordon

8. Tennis

Tennis is another game which is very popular around the world. It can be argued that it is the richest sport in the world when it comes to singles/doubles games as all the sports above it are team sports. It was estimated that Tennis has an Industry value of about $6-6.5 billion. Tennis originated in France around the 12th century and has grown a lot since then.

Reportedly more than 88 million people engage in the sport and it is very popular in European countries and Australia. The average salary for a professional tennis player is reported around $60,000 per year excluding the prize money from the tournaments. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is the governing body for the sport and Wimbledon is probably the most important tournament that is played.

   Tennis
Industry Value$6 billion (approx)
Average Salary$60,000 (yearly)
Governing BodyThe International Tennis Federation (ITF)
Most popular inEurope, Australia
Popular Variants of the gameClay/Grass (Based on field), Singles/doubles/mixed doubles
Important TournamentsWimbledon, U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open
Olympic SportYes
Some popular athletesRoger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic

7. Cricket

Cricket is the richest sport by far in the Indian Subcontinent. The game that originated in England was brought over to the Indian subcontinent by British colonizers and it grew rapidly in these parts. It is reported that currently the Cricket industry has a value of about $6.5 million (USD) and it is continuously on the rise.

Over the past two decades Club Cricket, a shorter form of the game (T-20) was introduced and it has rapidly increased the popularity of the game in newer countries where the game was not very popular. Another positive for the game is that over the past year Women’s Cricket has also increased in popularity in many manifolds.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) governs the sport on the international stage and works with the governing bodies of various countries. The average salary is said to be around $50,000 but the figure dwindles a lot outside the major Cricket playing nations.

  Cricket
Industry Value$6.5 billion (approx)
Average Salary$50,000 (yearly)
Governing BodyInternational Cricket Council (ICC)
Most popular inSouthern Asia, Australia, United Kingdom
Popular Variants of the gameT20, Test Cricket, ODI Cricket
Important TournamentsWorld Cup (50 overs), T20 World Cup, World Test Championship, Champions Trophy, Indian Premier League, The Ashes
Olympic SportNo
Some popular athletesMahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ricky Ponting, Kane Williamson

6. Golf

The “rich old men’s game” has grown a lot in the past 2 decades. Its current industry value is said to be around $7 billion (USD) whereas the average yearly salary is in the ballpark of $50,000 for a professional athlete. The game is as simple as “putting the ball inside the hole in the last number of chances” yet it requires a lot of skill to master it.

Someone who is starting with golf as a professional in the United States itself can earn upwards of $10,000 per year. Also, Mini-Golf has popped up globally which is a separate entity all together but follows up with similar rules. The International Golf Federation (IGF) was founded in 1958 and is the international federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

  Golf  
Industry Value$7 billion (approx)
Average Salary$50,000 (yearly)
Governing BodyThe International Golf Federation (IGF)
Most popular inUnited Kingdom, United States
Popular Variants of the gameMini Golf, Regular game
Important TournamentsOpen Championship, Masters Tournament, The PGA Championship, Ryder Cup
Olympic SportYes
Some popular athletesTiger Woods, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson

5. Baseball

The sport of Baseball is one of the most famous sports around the world with the USA being its biggest consumer. The Baseball industry is said to be around $40 billion which easily gets the sport into the number 5 spot of the world’s richest sports game.

The International Baseball Federation (IBF) is the governing body of the sport and has more than 124 National federations under it. The average salary of a Major League Baseball (MLB) player is said to be around $4 million (USD) with a minimum salary for an MLB professional being around $500,000. The sport is played between four bases and once you cover all the bases you get one run. Softball is a popular variant of this sport.

  Baseball
Industry Value$40 billion (approx)
Average Salary$4 million (yearly)
Governing BodyInternational Baseball Federation (IBF)
Most popular inUnited States of America
Popular Variants of the gameBaseball, Softball
Important TournamentsMajor League Baseball, World Series, Baseball World Cup
Olympic SportYes
Some popular athletesMike Trout, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts

4. Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey is one of the most popular sports in the USA and Canada and has a peak viewership of well over 2 billion people.

The industry value of the sports is estimated to be around $60 billion which would easily make the sport one of the top 5 richest sports in the world. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is the governing body of ice hockey and in-line hockey and its office is in Zurich, Switzerland.

IIHF has a whopping 81 member board making it one of the biggest sports in the world. In the sport, 6 people from a team can compete on the ice at a time, and substitutions are allowed. The average salary of a professional Ice hockey player is estimated to be around $2 million (USD).

  Ice Hockey
Industry Value$60 billion (approx)
Average Salary$2 million (yearly)
Governing BodyThe International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)
Most popular inCanada, USA, North-Eastern Europe
Popular Variants of the gameField Hockey (played on the turf 11v11), Ice Hockey
Important TournamentsIce Hockey world championships, National Hockey League
Olympic SportYes
Some popular athletesGordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr

3. American Football

One of the most popular sports in the U.S.A. and Canada, Football or Gridiron is a sport consisting of 11 people on each side with Unlimited substitutions. There are goalposts on each end of the rectangular field and the sport is one of the most physical sports in the world.

Though it looks similar to rugby there are a few key differences between the sports in scoring. The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) is the international governing body of American football associations. The current industry value of the sport is said to be around $200 billion and the National Football League (NFL) is the biggest league of the sport. According to reports, the game interests about 2 billion people.

  American Football
Industry Value$200 billion (approx)
Average Salary$850,000 (yearly)
Governing BodyInternational Federation of American Football (IFAF)
Most popular inUSA, Canada
Popular Variants of the gameRugby, American Football
Important TournamentsNational Football League, IFAF World Championship
Olympic SportNo
Some popular athletesTom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees

2. Basketball

Basketball is the second richest sport in the world garnering more than 2.5 billion viewers worldwide. The game is played between 5 players on the court from either team. The players attempt to shoot hoops on the opposing side which is placed at the height of 10 feet. The game is extremely popular in the United States, where the game originated. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) is the official governing body for the sport.

The game has a global market value of around $90 billion (USD) with the players playing in the NBA garnering the most salary. Other popular leagues around the world can be seen in Spain, China, Russia, and Japan. Though its valuation is lesser than American football, the game of Basketball is more worldwide and popular overall and hence provides a salary to more people.

   Basketball
Industry Value$90 billion (approx)
Average Salary$7 million (NBA) (yearly)
Governing BodyFIBA (International Basketball Federation)
Most popular inNorth America, Europe, Asia
Popular Variants of the gameBasketball (5v5), Half court Basketball
Important TournamentsNBA, Basketball World Cup, Olympic Games
Olympic SportYes
Some popular athletesLebron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson

1. Football

The answer to “What is the richest sport in the world?” Is simple…. Football! Football is by far the most popular and the richest sport in the world. The Industry Value of the sport is valued to be at $600 billion and the average salary for a professional footballer is said to be around $1-1.5 million dollars inside of Europe. Whereas the salary ranges outside of Europe are generally between $14,000 and $500,000.

The Federation of International Football Football Associations (FIFA) is the official governing body of the sport and has 211 member nations under it. Not just the regular 11 v 11 game, but its variations like Beach football and Futsal (5 a side football) are extremely popular as well. 

Football
Industry Value$600 billion (approx)
Average Salary$750,000-$1 million (yearly)
Governing BodyFIFA (Federation of International Football Associations)
Most popular inEurope, South America, Africa
Popular Variants of the gameField Football, Beach Football, Futsal
Important TournamentsFIFA World Cup, UEFA Euros, Copa America, Champions League (different confederations)
Olympic SportYes
Some popular athletesCristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Pele

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Jasvinder Singh
I am Jasvinder Singh, a content specialist editor at Kheltalk, who is a sports enthusiast. I try to cover every cricket game being played on the planet. For me, sports is not limited to just writing but also playing it on the field as well.
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