Sports League Profit and Market Sizes

Jason Winfree
Connor Allen
and Stefan Szymanski

It is often assumed that sports leagues should have teams in the largest markets. However, a very basic model of a sports league shows that, depending on talent investment’s role in team revenue, this assumption is not necessarily true. Heterogeneity in markets sizes can not only decrease costs but also increase expected league revenue. Having a smaller market leads to more wins for the larger market team and less competition for playing talent. Therefore, leagues may prefer smaller markets for expansion teams or team relocation. Given that leagues typically want larger markets, the paper investigates how the basic model of a sports league may be lacking. If leagues want competitive balance or more absolute talent, it may cause leagues to pursue larger markets.

JEL classification: C72, L10, L83