The World's Greatest League

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The World's Greatest League
(Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images)

We all have our favourite sports and teams within those sports, but ignoring those personal choices, what sports have the pulling power enough to get bums on seats, either in stadiums or in front of TVs?

I feel it's true that sports that began life in the UK (and Europe) are the most widely played and, as such, can claim to be world sports.

I also feel that North American sports are more limited in their geographical spread, but have a large and wealthy indigenous population, which generates a more prolific "customer base."

Typically, of course, the two continents' products haven't exported too well to each others territories.

The UK has the three most widely played team sports—Football (soccer), Cricket, and Rugby (both codes)—that aren't played significantly in North America, and of course the US have the Gridiron Code and Baseball, with very limited impact outside their home nation (and yet we still have "World" Championships, hmmm).

In all sports there are great exponents who garner worldwide attention—Pele, Beckham, Tiger, and Federer, to name a few.

But we also have those whose marketing potential gained them and their sport exposure beyond sporting reasons, such as Michael Jordan.

In a world where we can all follow teams and leagues from many places, the choice can be overwhelming, but there must be one league above all others that grabs and keeps the attention across many boundaries, but which is the best?

The number of participants does not a league make.  So fishing, pool, poker, or many similar sports can be discounted.

I am going to be brave and strike a "massive" sport from contention straight away—Cricket.

Although played in many countries and with the new 20-20 code gathering momentum, there simply isn't a single league that passes muster.

More difficult to accept for some, but for similar reasons, I bid farewell to Basketball.

I then have to remove international competitions, as that's a different proposition, so I'm not interested in the six Nations in Rugby or the Davis cup in Tennis.

So where a league exists, we need to look at how it holds the attention of fans and followers alike—it's longevity if you like.

I'm sorry, but I have to wave bye to American Football, as the season isn't long enough, and well, it hasn't captured the attention of the world in any case.

Baseball has a lot of games and some big attendances to boast, and it is also played outside the US, but again I can't see the world tuning in.

And I know that US and Japanese Baseball have massive attendance figures, but that's not the only yardstick here.

So were looking at football (soccer) but which league is the best?

MLS, of course, is a way of that title, I'm sure you agree.

The South American Leagues have produced an innumerable amount of quality players who travelled well, but alas no one tunes in for Boca Juniors or River Plate.

The Far East may be Soccer Mad but more as importers than exporters.

Europe is where we find the real deal and the top four supported leagues are easy to name aren't they, well maybe there is a surprise for some as they are: the English Premier, the Spanish La Liga, the German Bundesliga, and the English Championship!

Whaaa.

Yes, the English League's second tier (now reincarnated as the Championship and mooted as Prem Two) has more people watching it in stadiums, than the top leagues from Italy, France, or Holland, to name a few.

As heart warming as the position of the Championship is, it can't be the one.

Germany hasn't really sold well outside the Fatherland, which leaves us with La Liga or EPL and although they each have a team in the Champions' League Final, it comes down to the fact that EPL can both fill stadiums and cause worldwide TV bidding wars.

Where else do we have owners from all corners of the world voting with their rubles, dollars, and oil riches.

What other league can sell live games in Thailand and Australia for more than other sports can get for worldwide TV time?

So it seems obvious, but the English Premier League is the world's best, even though four and a half times as many people watch Baseball live (but has an average attendance of less than that of EPL).

But that's just my opinion.

 

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