Publicly Traded Sports Teams: Betting vs Ownership

Image credit: Sam Valadi
Image credit: Sam Valadi

Professional sports are lucrative for all involved, ranging from the athletes themselves to those on the business side who sell tickets and merchandise. Getting involved as a player or owner of a team in a major market is almost a surefire route to riches these days, but that avenue is closed to the vast majority of us mere mortals of more “modest” means and abilities.

There are, however, some alternative avenues that are more accessible to the everyday sports fan. Learning how to bet on sports is always an option, although one that requires a great deal of discipline and knowledge. The learning curve is high and the burnout rate even higher when you consider just how many people give professional sports betting a try and ultimately come to realize that this is a tough gig. It is most certainly possible, but it is not easy.

The other option is to own a piece of a publicly traded sports team. Buying shares in your favourite football club may not be as exciting as living the jet-set life of a professional handicapper, but it does offer the advantages of relative stability and simplicity. You do not need to be a stats master to pick up a few shares, let them sit and watch them grow.

Investing in a publicly traded sports team does carry the same risks as any other type of investment, but the risks are tame compared to betting on sports. Although it is possible for a stock’s value to drop all the way to zero, the much more likely worst case scenario is a slow fall in price that still gives you ample time to get out without losing everything. A sports bet, on the other hand, is usually an all-or-nothing proposition. The upside to betting on sports is that your return is bigger and faster when things go well.

Below, we will take a closer look at each and look at past trends to see if you would be better off buying shares in a publicly traded team or learning how to bet on sports profitably. This is by no means a scientific study or guarantee of your success in either direction; this is simply an interesting look at betting versus ownership.

List of Publicly Traded Sports Teams and Past Returns

The following sports organizations are all publicly traded on one platform or another in various parts of the world. This list only includes sports teams with public shares available today. Teams that were once public but have since become private organizations are not discussed.

All returns and pricing information is dated 21, July 2016. If you happen across this post at some point in the future, remember that we’re only looking for past trends anyways. The date ranges don’t matter as much because what we really want to know is how investors in sports teams have fared in the past as a basis for comparing investing to betting.

A.S. Roma

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Serie A
  • Symbol: ASR
  • Current Price: €0.4008
  • 1 Year Performance: -22.92%
  • 5 Year Performance: -0.82%

Anyone who invested in AS Roma one year ago today has now lost nearly a quarter of their original investment. AS Roma does plan to build a privately-financed stadium capable of seating 52,500 fans by 2018, so hopefully that will give the club and investors a much-needed boost.

Juventus

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Serie A
  • Symbol: JUVE
  • Current Price: €0.2593
  • 1 Year Performance: -5.43%
  • 5 Year Performance: -28.33%

The other big Italian football club, Juventus, is worth more than twice as much as AS Roma, but the five-year downward trend is significantly more pronounced. On a positive note, the Juventus 1-year performance is much less damaging than the 1-year performance seen with AS Roma.

Borussia Dortmund

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Bundesliga
  • Symbol: BVB
  • Current Price: €4.02
  • 1 Year Performance: 25.27%
  • 5 Year Performance: 82%

This sports stock has performed well for investors over both the 1-year and 5-year time frames. It should also be noted that Borussia Dortmund is the first stock discussed on this page that is truly publicly traded as the vast majority of shares are held by the general public. This is compared to AS Roma and Juventus, in which only a quarter to a third of the shares are available to the general public.

Manchester United

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Premier League
  • Symbol: MANU
  • Current Price: $16.96
  • 1 Year Performance: -5.72%
  • 4 Year Performance: 21.4%

Stock stats for Manchester United only date back about four years because their latest IPO occurred in August of 2012. Manchester United first went public in 1990, but years later American businessman Malcom Glazer took on significant debt to slowly buy up every share and then turn the club into a private organization once again. Man Utd supporters were not too pleased with their team being owned by an American business man, and Glazer eventually organized the club’s second IPO in 2012.

S.S. Lazio

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Serie A
  • Symbol: LAZIO
  • Current Price: €0.46
  • 1 Year Performance: -19.90%
  • 5 Year Performance: -13.04%

This Italian sports club was first formed in 1900 and is involved in a variety of sports, but they are most known for their football club. In 1998, Lazio became the first Italian football club to become a listed company.

S.L. Benfica

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Primeira Liga
  • Symbol: SLBEN
  • Current Price: €0.89
  • 1 Year Performance: -11%
  • 5 Year Performance: -22.61%

Benfica are the most successful Portuguese football club both domestically and overall. As of 2016, Benfica have won the Premeira Liga over the past three seasons. Sadly for investors, their great success on the pitch has not translated to increases in the stock’s value.

Celtic F.C.

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Scottish Premiership
  • Symbol: CCP
  • Current Price: £74
  • 1 Year Performance: -2.63%
  • 5 Year Performance: 87.34%

Celtic F.C. was in dire financial straits in 1994 when Canadian businessman Fergus McCann swept in and acquired a 51% stake in the organization. He saved the club from bankruptcy, developed the new Celtic Park and then floated the club on the London Stock Exchange later that year.

F.C. Copenhagen

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Danish Superliga
  • Symbol: PARKEN
  • Current Price: 60 DKK
  • 1 Year Performance: 5.26%
  • 5 Year Performance: -40.59%

Danish club F.C. Copenhagen is owned by Parken Sports & Entertainment, which also runs the Lalandia water park, a number of fitness clubs, Parken Stadium and more. Buying into Parken gives you a piece of F.C. Copenhagen along with all of Parken’s other interests.

F.C. Istres

  • Sport: Football
  • League: French – varies
  • Symbol: MLFCI
  • Current Price: €0.24
  • 1 Year Performance: 0%
  • 5 Year Performance: -89.14%

F.C. Istres is operated by the investment company Financiere Croissance Investissement SA. Stock prices have fallen, much like the club itself has struggled in recent years.

F.C. Porto

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Primeira Liga
  • Symbol: FCPP
  • Current Price: €0.66
  • 1 Year Performance: 61.37%
  • 5 Year Performance: -18.52%

Futebol Clube do Porto Futebol SAD is primarily involved in managing the F.C. Porto football team and its stadium. The company is also involved in a number of other local sports teams, but football remains its primary business today.

Sporting CP

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Primeira Liga
  • Symbol: SCP
  • Current Price: €0.56
  • 1 Year Performance: 5.28%
  • 5 Year Performance: -13.85%

The Sporting Clube de Portugal Futebol SAD runs Sporting CP as well as several teams from other sports associated with the club. Other company activities include selling tickets and merchandise, managing broadcasting rights, acquiring sponsorships and arranging licensing deals.

AFC Ajax NV

  • Sport: Football
  • League: Eredivisie
  • Symbol: AJAX
  • Current Price: €8.50
  • 1 Year Performance: -5.18%
  • 5 Year Performance: 18.88%

Netherlands-based AFC Ajax are a successful football club that have been listed on Euronext Amsterdam since 1998. Vereniging AFC Ajax retain 73% of the shares with only the remainder available for trade by the public.

New York Rangers / New York Knicks

  • Sport: Ice Hockey / Basketball
  • League: NHL / NBA
  • Symbol: MSG
  • Current Price: $171.77
  • Performance Since Sep 2015 Split: -4.57%

The New York Rangers and New York Knicks are both owned by parent company Madison Square Garden Co. Although you cannot buy a piece of either team all by itself, owning share in MSG is the equivalent to owning a piece of both teams. The Madison Square Garden Co. also runs the Madison Square Garden arena, the New York Liberty of the WNBA and is involved in hosting concerts and other events.

Longer-term earnings data is unavailable for MSG stock because it only began trading in September 2015. Prior to that, the MSG company split its stock to trade as two separate entities. MSG consists of the Garden Arena, sports teams, events and other venues while MSG Networks deals with the cable networks aspect of the business.

Toronto Maple Leafs / Toronto Raptors / Toronto FC / Toronto Blue Jays

  • Sport: Ice Hockey / Basketball / Football / Baseball
  • League: NHL / NBA / MLS / MLB
  • Symbol: BCE and RCI
  • Current Price: BCE: C$59.72 / RCI: C$51.47
  • 1 Year Performance: BCE: 17.05% / RCI: 26.77%
  • 5 Year Performance: BCE :102.65% / RCI: 69.98%

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is the parent company of three professional sports teams in Toronto (Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC). This company itself is not traded on any stock exchange, but Bell Canada and Rogers Communications each own approximately 37.5% of the company.

This one barely counts because buying stock in Bell Canada or Rogers Communications does not mean you’re buying in directly to any one (or even two) sports teams; you’re buying into a conglomerate that has holdings in a variety of industries ranging from communications to sports teams. Even so, if you’re really determined to have a peace of the Maple Leafs, Raptors or Toronto FC, this is the stock to buy.

The Toronto Blue Jays are not a part of MLSE and are 100% owned by Rogers Communications. If you’re only interested in owning Blue Jays stock, RCI is the only stock you need.

Atlanta Braves

  • Sport: Baseball
  • League: MLB
  • Symbol: BATRA
  • Current Price: $15.76
  • Performance Since April 2016 Offering: -56.22%

The Atlanta Braves are fully owned by the Liberty Media Corporation, which trades under LMCA and owns interests in a wide range of entertainment, communications and media businesses. Prior to April of 2016, you could own a piece of the Braves only by owning stock in the broader Liberty Media Corporation.

This past April, LMCA split into three different tracking stocks: the Liberty Media common stock, the Liberty Braves common stock and the Liberty Sirius XM common stock. You can now buy into the Braves directly by purchasing shares of BATRA. BATRA opened at $36 on the first day of trading and immediately plummeted to roughly half its value. BATRA hit a low of $13.40 later that month but has slowly recovered from there to its current price.

Green Bay Packers “Stock”

  • Sport: American Football
  • League: NFL
  • Symbol: N/A
  • Current Price: N/A

Green Bay Packers stock is almost worthless as a financial investment because it is not traded on any exchange and cannot be sold to another person for more than face value. In other words, you buy a piece of paper for a chance to say you’re an NFL owner. This so-called stock is mostly a thing for diehard Packers fans to support the team and feel like a part of the organization.

Packers stock has been sold on five occasions. Three of those offerings were used to raise money to save the team from bankruptcy while two of those were sold to fund improvements at Lambeau Field. It’s a cool idea if you love the Packers, but it is not a traditional stock by any stretch. You can read more about it here.

Brisbane Broncos

  • Sport: Rugby League
  • League: NRL
  • Symbol: BBL
  • Current Price: A$0.390
  • 1 Year Performance: 12%
  • 5 Year Performance: 21.88%

The Brisbane Broncos are a true publicly traded sports team; there are no conglomerates or other business operations to consider. If the Brisbane Broncos perform well and sell tickets/merchandise, the stock should rise. So far, that’s exactly what has happened.

Investment Results

This chart below shows what would have happened had you invested 100 units of your currency (we’ll use GBP in our example) in every single publicly traded sports team one year ago and five years ago. Two of these companies were not traded five years ago, so I have left those out of all five year projections.

StockInvestment1 Year PerformanceResult5 Year PerformanceResult
A.S. Roma£100-22.92%£77.08-0.82%£99.18
Juventus£100-5.43%£94.57-28.33%£71.67
Borussia Dortmund£10025.27%£125.2782%£182
Manchester United£100-5.72%£94.2821.40%£121.40
S.S. Lazio£100-19.90%£80.10-13.04%£86.96
S.L. Benfica£100-11%£89-22.61%£77.39
Celtic FC£100-2.63%£97.3787.34%£187.34
F.C. Copenhagen£1005.26%£105.26-40.59%£59.41
F.C. Istres£1000%£100-89.14%£10.86
F.C. Porto£10061.37%£161.37-18.52%£81.48
Sporting CP£1005.28%£105.28-13.85%£86.15
AFC Ajax NV£100-5.18%£94.8218.88%£118.88
MSG (Rangers / Knicks)£100-4.57%£95.43
BCE (Leafs / Raptors / Toronto FC)£10017.05%£117.0526.77%£126.77
RCI (Toronto Blue Jays)£10026.77%£126.7769.98%£169.98
Atlanta Braves£100-56.22%£43.78
Brisbane Broncos£10012%£11221.88%£121.88
Results
Starting With: £1,700Balance After 1 Year: £1,719.43
Starting With: £1,500Balance After 5 Years: £1,601.35
DJIA for Comparison 12-month return: -1.87% 5-year return: 46.83%
Starting With: £1,700Balance After 1 Year: £1,668.21
Starting With: £1,500Balance after 5 Years: £2,202.45
NASDAQ Composite 12-month return: -6.22% 5-year return: 81.08%
Starting With: £1,700 Balance After 1 Year: £1,594.26
Starting With: £1,500Balance After 5 Years: £2,716.20

In conclusion, investing in publicly traded sports teams has been just slightly better than breakeven. You would not have lost any money outright, but it most likely would not have been enough to keep ahead of your currency’s inflation over those same periods.

The return on sports teams did beat the market over the one-year span, but was badly beaten by the market over the five-year span. You would have earned significantly more had you instead parked your money in the Dow Jones Industrial Average index or NASDAQ Composite index for five years.

So is it better to bet on sports than invest in sports teams?

For the vast majority of sports fans, it is better to invest in a variety of sports teams than it would be to try and earn a positive return betting on them. The reason for this is simple: the vast majority of sports bettors are net losers over the long run. Even a paltry return on publicly traded sports teams is better than losing your shirt over and over again.

The one major advantage sports betting has over investing is the potential for massive returns. A good winning handicapper might earn an ROI of around 3% per play while a great handicapper may earn as much as 5% ROI per play. If you’re able to maintain a positive ROI over a course of many bets, your annual ROI will dwarf the market. Just beware that those are very optimistic numbers and they only apply to a very small percentage of sports gamblers.

On the other hand, investing all your money into just one sports stock is almost the same as straight up gambling. You can see above just how much variance there is from one stock to the next. You would be better off creating your own index of sports-related stocks and diversifying within that sector. What would be even better than that would be to just invest in a normal index such as the DJIA or NASDAQ composite. As Forbes once noted, publicly traded sports teams rarely outperform the market.

Sure, you could always just sit down and decide you’re going to learn the sports handicapping game inside-out and become a pro, but is that really the best use of your time? For most of us, it isn’t. The market does the hard work for you and grows your money over time. That is the best option for most of us when it comes to earing a profit over the long term.

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