A sports league is a governing body over a particular set of teams within a singular sport. The sports league makes the rules for the league, organizes events for the league, and maintains an authoritative presence over the teams that are in the league, which includes enforcing disciplinary action against teams and players.
For example, the National Football League (NFL) is the largest Football league in North America. The NFL is made up of 32 Football teams which compete against one another using the NFL rulebook. There is also the Canadian Football League (CFL) which is made up of nine teams using the CFL rulebook.
Most popular sports have a major governing league, including sports like Badminton, Volleyball, Cricket, and Darts. There can be multiple sports leagues for one sport, but the rules are almost certain to vary in some way, which is the main reason for there being multiple leagues for one sport.
By revenue, the National Football League (NFL) is the most popular and profitable sports league in the world, followed by Major League Baseball (MLB), Premier League Football (Association Football / Soccer), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL).
The NFL is the most popular sports league in the United States, as Football is the most popular sport in the country. The NBA has made a strong surge over the past 20 years and jumped up the rankings to the third most popular sports league in the country, though some would argue that its popularity has surpassed Major League Baseball.
There are numerous Association Football (or Soccer) leagues in the world, though the most popular ones are in Europe where the sport is most popular.
Starting a sports league can be a very quick, or a very long process. You can technically start your own sports league right now if you want to! First, you need to pick a sport in which your league will be the governing body. Just as an example, let's pick Football. Now, you need to pick a headquarters for your league. Let's go with the swingset next to the Football field. Next, you're going to need to create your own rulebook. Of course, you could adopt a rulebook from another league, but that's not as fun. In our rulebook, there are 13 players on the field instead of 11. Lastly, we're going to need some teams for our league. You manage to gather up enough people to create 10 teams. Congratulations, you just created your own sports league! Arrange dates for the teams to play, and let the season begin!
Of course, this is a much longer and complicated process to create an official sports league. A process that will no doubt cost a lot of time, money, and licensing. However, the process is still pretty much the same!
Sports league seasons vary by sport and league. For example, the NBA plays 82 games in a regular season, plus a maximum of 28 games per team for the playoffs. In the NFL, teams play 16 games over the course of 17 weeks, plus the playoffs.
However, this just constitutes the regular season. When teams are not playing, the league is still active in what is called the offseason. During this time, league officials are having meetings where they discuss possible rule changes, expansion teams, contract negotiations, and anything else that must be discussed.
Some league's seasons never end. World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, is a professional wrestling league that tours the country all year long. The longest breaks the athletes get may only be a couple of days before they're competing again or flying elsewhere. Not only do they appear on live television up to three or four times a week, they also compete in house shows that are not shown on TV, but maintain the same level of competition as the live shows.
Joining a sports league has varying costs. Joining local sports leagues, like co-ed Softball or Kickball is usually free, with the fee being per person or per team. For example, a lot of local leagues have an upfront cost for each team to join the league. However, this is not always the case and finding a sports league to join for free isn't difficult.
The cost to join a sports league will vary based on how much money the league needs to maintain its status as the governing body. Local leagues require and entry to be able to rent out playing spaces, purchase equipment, or supply food and drink to the teams in the league. Professional leagues are a bit different, where major sports teams are often created by the league themselves, and not the other way around.
There are a lot of sports leagues for a variety of different sports in the world. Here's a quick list of some of the highest level leagues for different sports across the globe!