Credit: Gemba
Credit: Gemba

The AFL and NRL generate more revenue per-fan than any other professional sporting league in the world, outpacing even European football leagues and the NBA for commercialisation, according to new research from Gemba.

The sports and entertainment agency found that, when combined, Australia's major professional sporting leagues, organisations and clubs rank eighth in term of revenue generated on a national basis.

On a per-capita basis, Australian sporting leagues attract the fourth most revenue per-fan – an average of $229 per-person, behind only the US ($484), UK ($461) and Spain ($340) and ahead of Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Japan.

Australia's two most-popular leagues, the AFL and NRL, are ranked first and second in fan spending per-capita globally, outstripping even the NBA, NFL and English Premier League, according to Gemba senior strategy consultant Grey Joyner.

"While Australia’s population may not be large and its passion for sport [is] not massive when compared to other countries, Australia’s rights-holders are doing a great job of generating income, whether through ticket revenue, broadcast dollars, sponsorship or any other revenue stream," he said.

Despite these figures, Joyner said that Australians are actually comparatively ambivalent about sport – just 75% of Australians are 'fanatical' about at least one sport, ranking ninth out of the top 15 economies in the world, behind the likes of South Korea, Italy, Spain, India and the United States.

However, with much of the revenue top-loaded towards the AFL, NRL and cricket, Joyner said the Australian sporting landscape was cluttered and "out of balance."

"Put simply, there’s a war amongst rights holders to find brand and commercial partners… There are lots of leagues and even more teams, yet comparatively few fans to go around. This means the supply of sponsorship opportunities outweighs the demand for sponsorship assets," said Joyner.

"The percentage of Aussies fanatical about the [BBL, NRL and AFL] ranges from 22-29%. In the UK, however, 46% of the population is a fanatic of the EPL. In the US, 53% are crazy about NFL… Even in Mexico, there is more passion for the NFL, MLB and NBA than Australians have for any sports league," said Joyner.

Several Australian sporting codes have posted record financial returns recently. Tennis Australia became the first Australian sport to record more than $100m in sponsorship revenue in 2018, while the AFL reported $200m in commercial revenue and the NRL posted a $46m surplus in recent weeks.