Money Ball

Forbes lists top 50 most valuable sports franchises, New Orleans Saints rank No. 48
associated press
Forbes magazine has ranked the New Orleans Saints the world’s 48th most valuable sports franchise with a value of $2 billion. Gayle Benson, who Sports Illustrated this week called “the most power woman in sports,” owns the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, valued at $1 billion.


On Wednesday, Forbes magazine released its annual ranking of the world’s most valuable sports franchises. The list had several surprises, and with the offseason moves of several players to new teams, the listing could, arguably, already be out of date.

The Dallas Cowboys, valued at $4.8 billion, topped the list, with Manchester United, $4.123 billion, Real Madrid, $4.09 billion, Barcelona, $4.064 billion, and the New York Yankees, $4 billion, rounding out the top five.

The New Orleans Saints made the top 50, ranked No. 48 with a value of $2 billion.

The rankings show that branding and fan experience are outpacing on-field accomplishments in relation to how the teams make money. This is the third consecutive year that the Cowboys have topped the list, but their last Super Bowl championship came in 1996. That’s 22 years ago, which means almost an entire generation of sports fans has not seen the team win their league. Their success, Forbes argues, is based on their $1.2 billion stadium and next-door training facility, which the magazine described as “a gold-plated ATM.”

Forbes says the Cowboys have “the highest revenue ($840 million) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ($350 million) of any franchise.”

The magazine says AT&T Stadium, which opened in 2009, generates more than $100 million a year in premium seat revenue via luxury suites and club seating and $150 million from sponsors. Non-football events and tours of their facilities bring in tens of millions of dollars more.

Because of soccer’s international audience, it’s not surprising that soccer teams occupied slots two, three, and four. Manchester United haven’t won the English Premier League in five years, and, frankly, have been a mess since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired after lifting the trophy in 2013. Still, they are popular worldwide, with supporters groups from Asia to Alaska, all willing to buy gear, which is updated annually. Madrid and Barcelona are arguably the two most talented sides in all of sports, but change has affected them, too. In July, after Madrid won its third straight European championship, their star player, Cristiano Ronaldo, and head coach, Zinedine Zidane, both bolted for Italian club Juventes. The Turin-based team sold 520,000 Ronaldo jerseys within 24 hours of their release. BeIN Sports reported the team sold 850,000 team jerseys last season. That’s quite an economic impact, considering he hasn’t played a game for them yet. Barcelona, of course, have Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, but lost Neymar, arguably the third best player in the world, to Paris.

Although they haven’t won a World Series since 2009, The Yankees are synonymous with excellence. They have won 27 championships, more than any other franchise in the four major North American sports leagues, and have 44 players and 11 managers in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Their record and hometown have helped to make their interlocking NY logo a popular culture icon and ubiquitous merchandising presence globally.

Current blockbuster broadcasting contracts have helped franchise values surge beyond what experts have appraised them. Forbes reported that the NFL’s Carolina Panthers ($2.2 billion), NBA’s Houston Rockets ($2.2 billion) and MLB’s Florida Marlins ($1.2 billion) all sold during the past 10 months, setting records for their respective leagues in each case.

While the NFL has been seemingly dogged with off field issues and resulting lower viewership, it doesn’t seem to be affecting team values. The league has 29 of the top 50 most valuable teams, while there were eight from the NBA, seven from international soccer, and six from Major League Baseball.

The NFL’s 32 teams split $8.2 billion, or $255 million per team, last season from broadcast rights with CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and DirecTV. Only three teams, the Cincinnati Bengals ($1.8 billion), Detroit Lions ($1.7 billion) and Buffalo Bills ($1.6 billion) did not make the cutoff. Astute readers will recognize that that means the Cleveland Browns DID make the list. A dumpster fire of a franchise, if there ever was one, the Browns went 0-16 last season, have won 18.8 percent of their games over the last five years (15-65), and haven’t had a winning season since 2007. It’s hard to believe they made the list, much less had three other teams below them.

The top 50 teams on the list are all valued at more than $1.95 billion, a $200 million increase from 2017. Forbes estimates there are 106 teams worth at least $1 billion, 19 more than the 87 listed last year.

The magazine values the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans at $1 billion.

Both New Orleans franchises are estimated to be worth a combined $3 billion. Tom Benson bought the NFL’s Saints for $70 million in 1985 and the New Orleans Hornets, since renamed the Pelicans, for $338 million in 2012. Today, both are owned by his wife, Gayle Benson, who Sports Illustrated this week called ‘the most power woman in sports.”


Rank Team (sport) Value 1-Year change
1 Dallas Cowboys (NFL) $4.8 B 14%
2 Manchester United (Soccer) $4.123 B 12%
3 Real Madrid (Soccer) $4.09 B 14%
4 Barcelona (Soccer) $4.064 B 12%
5 New York Yankees (MLB) $4 B 8%
6 New England Patriots (NFL) $3.7 B 9%
7 New York Knicks (NBA) $3.6 B 9%
8 Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) $3.3 B 10%
8 New York Giants (NFL) $3.3 B 6%
10 Golden State Warriors (NBA) $3.1 B 19%
10 Washington Redskins (NFL) $3.1 B 5%
12 Bayern Munich (Soccer) $3.063 B 13%
13 San Francisco 49ers (NFL) $3.05 B 2%
14 Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB) $3 B 9%
14 Los Angeles Rams (NFL) $3 B 3%
16 Chicago Cubs (MLB) $2.9 B 8%
17 San Francisco Giants (MLB) $2.85 B 8%
17 Chicago Bears (NFL) $2.85 B 6%
19 Boston Red Sox (MLB) $2.8 B 4%
19 Houston Texans (NFL) $2.8 B 8%
21 New York Jets (NFL) $2.75 B 0%
22 Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) $2.65 B 6%
23 Chicago Bulls (NBA) $2.6 B 4%
23 Denver Broncos (NFL) $2.6 B 8%
25 Miami Dolphins (NFL) $2.575 B 8%
26 Green Bay Packers (NFL) $2.55 B 9%
27 Boston Celtics (NBA) $2.5 B 14%
27 Baltimore Ravens (NFL) $2.5 B 9%
29 Atlanta Falcons (NFL) $2.475 B 16%
30 Manchester City (Soccer) $2.474 B 19%
31 Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) $2.45 B 9%
32 Seattle Seahawks (NFL) $2.425 B 9%
33 Minnesota Vikings (NFL) $2.4 B 9%
34 Oakland Raiders (NFL) $2.38 B 13%
35 Indianapolis Colts (NFL) $2.375 B 9%
36 Brooklyn Nets (NBA) $2.3 B 28%
36 Carolina Panthers (NFL) $2.3 B 11%
38 Los Angeles Chargers (NFL) $2.275 B 9%
39 Arsenal (Soccer) $2.238 B 16%
40 Houston Rockets (NBA) $2.2 B 33%
41 Los Angeles Clippers (NBA) $2.15 B 7%
41 Arizona Cardinals (NFL) $2.15 B 6%
43 New York Mets (MLB) $2.1 B 5%
43 Kansas City Chiefs (NFL) $2.1 B 12%
45 Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL) $2.075 B 6%
46 Chelsea (Soccer) $2.062 B 12%
47 Tennessee Titans (NFL) $2.05 B 2%
48 New Orleans Saints (NFL) $2 B 14%
49 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) $1.975 B 10%
50 Cleveland Browns (NFL) $1.95 B 5%




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