We live in complicated times, as everyone knows, and this even extends to sports. What was once a relatively straightforward activity has ballooned; it’s now worth billions of dollars, coverage is wall to wall, and fan engagement continues to be impressive. However, dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that not all is well in the world of sport. The industry might be doing well, but a lot of revenue comes from television and advertising. Good for now, but for sports to be healthy they need people attending the games and, most importantly, the youth participating in the game. The success of the sport always rests with the next generation.
There was a time when it would be unthinkable to suggest that the NFL might be in danger, but the recent announcement that attendance figures and TV viewership has declined will have set off alarm bells. Still, it’s important to remember that any decline has come from a position of total strength; while a 15% viewer drop might seem excessive, there are still plenty of people tuning in. What will affect the NFL is youth participation. Health warnings and the rise of other popular sports have meant there are less young people playing football; one in four children throw a football around now, whereas six years ago that figure was one in three.
The NBA might have a revenue that’s only around half of what the NFL takes in, but look beyond that annual figure, and you’ll see more encouraging signs. Basketball uniforms are flying off the shelves, and the sport is the most popular in the US for schoolchildren aged 9 and up. More importantly is the international interest in the sport. It’s growing quickly in just about every country that has a league, with more and more people tuning into the NBA. Some commentators are even saying that basketball might one day overtake soccer to become the most popular sport in the world.
The National Pastime
If you’re a baseball lover, look away now. The sport is in trouble, though just how much trouble remains to be seen. It’s not so much that people aren’t tuning in or going to the games – they are – but the age of which they’re doing it. The majority of baseball fans are over fifty, and the youth just doesn’t seem as interested in the sport as previous generations. Contributing factors to youth’s lack of interest are the expensive cost of starting the sport, and that it’s slow compared to other sports. No one’s quite sure what you can do about that.
It might be surprising, given that the NHL was a league that propped up the other American sports (to an extent, anyway), but ice hockey is growing in the USA, and quite impressively so too. Attendance at games has been steadily growing over the past few years, as have online searches for the sport and league (if that means anything).
Of course, none of these trends are set in stone. Sports do rise and fall away occasionally!