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Editor’s Pick: Increase in investment from athletes is changing the world of sports

Sports across the globe could change for good as athletes are putting fortune in the sport that could eventually benefit both parties.

Investors are the foundational unit of every successful venture. This applies to the world of sports too, where franchises in different sporting leagues are backed by financially powerful people. Even the national sports teams have investors in the forms of cash-rich governing bodies and partners. In recent decades, the faces of investors have a new addition in the form of athlete investors.

For many years, playing sports was a primary source of income for athletes along with at least one secondary job under their belt. Sadly, this is still the case for many less popular sports. However, globalisation and strength of sports to have a big impact in the society has changed few things. With the advent of sports broadcast and rising fan engagement, the value of players in popular sports like football, basketball, cricket, etc. increased and attracted lucrative endorsements from brands. Since this remarkable change also helped in increasing salaries of athletes, some of them have started investing money in brands that aligned with their interests and facilitated more profits.

Sports franchises attracting athletes as investors

While their investments increased in technology, fashion, venture capital firms, food chains, and more, they soon started investing in different sports. Basketball legend Michael Jordan is a majority owner in NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and NASCAR’s 23XI Racing. Along with baseball star Derek Jeter, Jordan also has a small share in Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball.

The famous Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, are the minority owners in NFL’s Miami Dolphins. LeBron James owns stakes in the Premier League giants Liverpool FC. While these investments had a mixed impact on the team’s performance, it made the franchises more valuable, socially and financially.

Entertainment industry giving platform to athletes

As athletes slowly turned towards investing in sports, they started collaborating with another type of investors, the influential people from the world of entertainment. One of the biggest examples of this type of investment is the Indian Premier League (IPL), which used the popularity of cricket and Bollywood in India to increase the earnings of cricket players. With franchises owned by Bollywood celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Preity Zinta, and Shilpa Shetty, the league’s popularity increased simultaneously with players’ values. Some of these players used money earned from such leagues to invest in business ventures, including sports franchises.

For instance, two of India’s most beloved cricketers Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, are IPL’s leading earners. Kohli and Dhoni are also the co-owners of FC Goa and Chenaiyin FC, respectively. Investment from these star cricketeres combined with the Bollywood power in Indian Super League (ISL) franchises helped popularize the league in a country where international football generally takes precedence over national football team and leagues.

Social impact of investment from athletes in sports

The stories of athletes investing in sports are also having a ground-breaking social impact. US Women’s national football (or soccer) team is a worldwide sensation due to its unparalleled success and fight for equal pay. The players are now bringing this popularity to an all-new women’s team for the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Known as the Angel City FC, this Los Angeles-based team features around 14 former national team players such as Lorrie Fair, Mia Hamm, Saskia Webber, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, and Amanda Cromwell as the founding members.

Venture capitalists Kara Nortman and Alexis Ohanian, entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and influential entertainment personalities such as Natalie Portman, Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, Lilly Singh, are also investing in the team. Serena Williams, along with former tennis stars Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, WNBA legend Candace Parker, NHL stars P. K. Subban and Ryan Kalil, and former US men’s international soccer star Cobi Jones, are the other athlete investors in the high-profile owner group. Recently, tennis star Naomi Osaka also became the part-owner of North Carolina Courage, another NWSL franchise. These investments will surely help in popularizing women’s soccer in the US and may have a serious impact on women’s sports on a global level.

Since Athletes know the hardships of making it at the top level, giving back to sports through investments could help the future generation and society. Even in athlete related investment, everything is not rosy, but having people at the helm of a franchise or an organisation that cares for the sports can have a much better impact on younger athletes instead of businessmen that see sports as another avenue of churning out money.

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