FIFA, the highest governing body of the game called association football (AKA soccer), is apparently full of crooks. As a thing, soccer is barely on the periphery of my perception because, hello, American, but I know two things about it. One, FIFA is well-known to be full of crooks. And two, it’s “the world’s most popular sport.” According to the Wikipedia, it’s played (played!) by 250 million people worldwide. Crazy.
What struck me about the story linked to above were the financial numbers. FIFA is the world body for soccer. I know just enough to be dangerous here (for example, there’s other big football organizations like the British Premier League), but this most popular sport in the world is surprisingly inefficient as a business when compared to other sports like baseball and American football.
According the Times story, FIFA reported $5.7 billion in revenue from 2011 to 2014. Business Insider reported the Brazil World Cup in 2014 made up 85% of that, or $4.8 billion. Those numbers more or less agree. So in non-World Cup years, FIFA had, on average, $900 million in revenue annually. The BBC says the Premier League generated $4.6 billion over the 2013-14 season. There’s a crazy number of association football leagues in the world and I don’t have the time to add up all their revenues, though I did find that the United States Soccer Federation raked in a cool $65 million (no “b”) in 2013.
So yeah, world’s most popular sport by far, but the main U.S. sports (I didn’t even look at basketball) generate way, way more revenue per fan. If soccer ever gets a foothold in the U.S., it could easily eclipse the Premier League’s revenues (which, I assume, are the highest of all football leagues). But how many sports can one population of people care about and which of the “big three” in the U.S. (not even counting something like NASCAR) can a game that routinely ends in a tie and doesn’t have logical gaps into which commercials can be fitted knock off?