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The sports business means many different things to different people. This is a truly global industry, and sports stir up deep passion within spectators and players alike in countries around the world. To one person, sports are a venue for gambling; to another, they are a mode of personal recreation and fitness, be it skiing, cycling, running or playing tennis. To business people, sports provide a lucrative and continually growing marketplace worthy of immense investment. To athletes, sports may lead to high levels of personal achievement, and to professionals, sports can bring fame and fortune. To facilities developers and local governments, sports are a way to build revenue from tourists and local fans. Sports are deeply ingrained in education, from elementary through university levels. Perhaps we cannot state with confidence that sports enrich the lives of all of us, but they certainly entertain a huge swath of the world’s population. In addition to economic impact, the largest single effect that sports create is that of gripping entertainment: hundreds of millions of fans around the globe follow sports daily, whether via radio, television, printed publications, online or in person, as spectators or participants.
Sports are big business. Combined, the “Big 4” leagues in America, the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), bring in about $23 billion in revenue during a typical year, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. U.S. sporting equipment sales at retail sporting goods stores are $44.1 billion yearly, according to U.S. government figures. A reasonable estimate of the total U.S. sports market would be $485 billion yearly (and $1.5 trillion for the entire world). However, the sports industry is so complex, including ticket sales, licensed products, sports video games, collectibles, sporting goods, sports-related advertising, endorsement income, stadium naming fees and facilities income, that it’s difficult to put an all-encompassing figure on annual revenue. When researching numbers in the sports industry, be prepared for apparent contradictions. For example, the NFL receives vastly more money each year for TV and cable broadcast rights than MLB, despite the fact that MLB teams play about 10 times more games each year than NFL teams.
When the astonishing variety of sports-related sectors is considered, a significant portion of the workforce in developed nations such as the U.S., UK, Australia and Japan rely on the sports industry for their livelihoods. Official U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures as of 2013 found that there were 13,880 professional American athletes plus 206,808 coaches and scouts, along with 16,140 umpires, referees and officials. Meanwhile, the data showed that 523,400 Americans work in fitness centers, 40,700 in snow skiing facilities, 68,300 in bowling centers and 349,900 at country clubs or golf courses. In total, approximately 1.3 million Americans work directly in amusement and recreation sectors. Another 49,800 work in the wholesale trade of sporting goods, and 270,000 in retail sporting goods stores.  Sports, recreation and related supplies and services have been among the greatest new job engines over the past two years, and virtually all of these sectors are up substantially in job count since 2011.

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