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The 10 Most Expensive Sports in the World and Why

The 10 Most Expensive Sports in the World and Why

About 25% of adults in the United States play sports, but a much smaller percentage participate in the priciest sports. But what is the most expensive sport in the world?

The most expensive sport in the world is sailing, as each sailing yacht can cost $9 million or more. Most sailing teams own at least two vessels, making the average total cost of sailing more than $18 million! Formula one racing is also pricey, as a vehicle can cost more than $12 million.

Let’s discuss the factors that contribute to a sport’s cost and rank the most expensive sports on the planet.

What Makes Sports Expensive?

Tossing a ball around the yard is a relatively inexpensive activity that might only cost a few dollars. But sports that require tons of specialized equipment or specific surroundings tend to cost far more.

Generally, the cost of playing sports typically depends on:

  • Cost of equipment
  • Training fees
  • Transportation to events

The best way to understand why some sports are more expensive than others is to examine these factors in greater detail. So, to kick things off, let’s take a closer look at equipment costs.

Cost of Equipment

Equipment varies in price from less than $20 to more than $10 million, depending on the sport. For example, getting into frisbee is relatively inexpensive, with most frisbee discs costing between $10 and $30. But becoming a competitive sailor is far pricier, as a racing yacht can easily cost millions of dollars.

When considering which sports are pricier than others, equipment costs are the first thing to look at. That said, it’s also worthwhile to think about how much training it takes for players to master their chosen sport’s equipment.

Training Fees

Even naturally gifted sports players need specialized training to hone their skills and learn new techniques. Consequently, training sessions can significantly increase the cost of playing a sport.

Think about it like this: The most expensive sushi in the world is prepared by chefs that have spent decades perfecting their culinary skills. Similarly, the most skilled sports players often spend years taking costly lessons from the best players on the globe.

Transportation to Events

The most expensive sports in the world aren’t played in someone’s backyard. Instead, they’re held in unique locations like obstacle courses, ice rinks, and swimming pools.

Unfortunately, the cost to rent these venues adds to the price of some sports, but these locations can be very far away, increasing transportation costs. Traveling in style (like arriving in one of the most expensive Lexus cars) raises costs even higher!

Most Expensive Sport: Summary List

  1. Sailing
  2. Formula One Racing
  3. Bobsledding
  4. Tennis
  5. Pentathlon
  6. Polo
  7. Competitive Swimming
  8. Equestrian Competitions
  9. Ice Hockey
  10. Gymnastics

10. Gymnastics


Though gymnastics is one of the most popular sports for children, it’s also one of the most expensive options. That’s because the most skilled gymnasts begin taking lessons at a young age (around three years old) and continue taking classes until they’re young adults.

Additionally, gymnasts need special equipment to practice their skills. For example, most gymnastics lessons include:

  • Climbing ropes
  • Balance beams
  • Vaults
  • Uneven bars
  • Horizontal bars
  • Pommel horses
  • Thick floor mats

And competitive gymnastics lessons aren’t cheap, costing about $300 per month. If you’ve been practicing gymnastics from a young age, the total cost of this sport can cost more than $50,000 by the time you’re eighteen years old!

Still, the average per-year cost of gymnastics lessons is just over $3,500.

Why It’s Expensive

Gymnastics is expensive because it’s a long-term sport. Most gymnasts begin taking lessons when they’re very young, and they continue with their studies up until young adulthood.

The goal of competitive gymnastics is to compete in professional events, including Olympic competitions. As such, many people are willing to spend thousands of dollars on helping their children become skilled gymnasts, making it a costly sport.

9. Ice Hockey


Many people assume that golf is one of the priciest sports, primarily due to exclusive and expensive golf courses. However, renting an ice skating rink can cost more than reserving some time on the putting green.

But venue costs aren’t the only reason why ice hockey is one of the most expensive sports. This rough game also requires plenty of gear, including body padding, nets, hockey sticks, and pucks.

Ice hockey also tends to be somewhat violent, so player injuries aren’t uncommon. When you add long-term health costs to the mix, you end up with an annual price tag that can easily reach $4,000 or more.

Why It’s Expensive

Hockey gear can cost between $200 and $1,000, depending on your size and skill level. But the primary reasons ice hockey is expensive are venue rental costs and injuries. Ice rinks typically charge about $250 per hour for private rental sessions.

Though coaches may divide this cost between team members, regular practice sessions can easily equate to thousands of dollars of fees each year.

8. Equestrian Competitions


An afternoon of horseback riding might set you back between $100 and $200. However, becoming a skilled equestrian is far more expensive, with an average per-year cost of about $4,000 or more!

That’s because competitive equestrians typically take professional lessons every week. This practice allows them to build a strong relationship with their horse and master standard moves like jumping and trotting.

Serious riders also buy their own horse, often boarding them at local ranches or stables. While this extra step isn’t entirely necessary, it can add several thousand dollars to the overall cost. For example, a horse might cost between $1,000 and $10,000, and boarding fees can exceed $5,000 per year.

Why It’s Expensive

Becoming a competitive equestrian requires time, practice, and plenty of money. That’s because it’s a sport that relies on both a person’s skills and horse training. Because owning a horse can be pretty pricey, becoming an equestrian is far more expensive than playing a round of golf or kicking around a soccer ball.

7. Competitive Swimming


It might be surprising to learn that competitive swimming is one of the priciest sports, but it’s crucial to remember that the cost to rent a large swimming pool averages at about $100 per hour. So, unless you happen to have an Olympic-sized pool in your backyard, you’ll likely end up spending several hundred dollars per month to become a skillful competitive swimmer.

Still, equipment and lessons also contribute to the cost of competitive swimming. For example, swimmers need a swim cap, a slim swimsuit, and plenty of training to perfect their backstroke and breaststroke.

Most swimmers will also spend a small fortune on body maintenance, as the most skillful competitive swimmers either shave their body hair every other day or invest in body hair removal services to keep themselves as smooth as possible. Altogether, swimmers might spend $5,000 or more on this sport each year.

Why It’s Expensive

Becoming a competitive swimmer is expensive because participants need access to large (25m to 50m) pools. The most dedicated swimmers practice every day or at least five days each week. As a result, they can end up spending between $50 and $500 per week on swimming pool access alone.

6. Polo


Polo (also called horse polo) has one of the most prestigious reputations of any sport. Often associated with the wealthiest realms of society, polo is much like soccer, croquet, and competitive equestrian riding.

In fact, polo combines aspects of these sports into one entity. As we’ve touched on before, sports involving horses tend to be some of the priciest, as the cost to keep a horse is far higher than the cost to maintain non-living equipment.

However, unlike equestrian competitions, polo matches also require polo mallets, jerseys, and access to approved polo pitches. In addition, because this game has a reputation as being a rich man’s sport, polo teams can be incredibly exclusive. So don’t be surprised to spend upwards of $5,000 each year to play a few rounds of polo.

Why It’s Expensive

There are several reasons why polo is expensive, but the horseback riding aspect tends to be the prime denominator. Not only will players need access to well-trained horses accustomed to polo matches, but they’ll also need to take lessons to become skillful riders.

5. Pentathlon


A pentathlon consists of five different sporting competitions, making it one of the priciest sports. To compete in a pentathlon, you’ll need to master:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Horseback Riding
  • Shooting
  • Fencing

As such, you’ll need to purchase running shoes, swimming gear, fencing equipment, and a rifle. You’ll also need to spend money to reserve a swimming pool for practice (unless you own your large backyard pool), perfect your aim at a shooting range, and schedule horseback riding lessons.

Overall, you can expect to spend between $2,000 and more than $5,000 training for a modern pentathlon.

Why It’s Expensive

Participating in a pentathlon is expensive because it’s more than one sport! However, swimming, shooting, and horseback riding are the primary factors contributing to the high costs. These sports are costlier than running and fencing.

4. Tennis


Tennis dates back to the 16th century, though an earlier version (played with hands instead of rackets) originated in the 12th century. This extended history makes tennis one of the oldest still-practiced sports in the world.

But tennis is also one of the most expensive sports, with an average annual cost of more than $7,000. This high price doesn’t include sportswear or equipment!

Still, tennis is a comparatively simple game, requiring a court, a net, a ball, and a racket. So why is it one of the priciest games to play?

Why It’s Expensive

The primary reason tennis is expensive is that it takes place on specialized tennis courts. Reserving these courts can cost between $50 and $100 per hour.

But suppose you’re lucky enough to find and secure a public court. In that case, you can still expect to spend several hundred dollars on tennis-appropriate clothing and equipment, not to mention competition fees and training classes.

3. Bobsledding


Unless you live in a cold environment (or are a fan of the 1993 film, Cool Runnings), you might be unfamiliar with bobsledding. This sport utilizes a slim bobsleigh that’s just large enough to accommodate four people, and the vehicle slides down an ice track at high speeds.

Unlike direct head-to-head races, bobsledding is a one-vessel-per-time sport. The goal is to cross the finish line in the fastest possible time, beating the recorded times of other teams.

The cost of a bobsleigh, protective equipment, and bobsledding lessons make this Olympic sport one of the most expensive pastimes. For example, a four-person bobsleigh can cost $30,000 to $100,000.

Why It’s Expensive

Bobsledding is expensive because professional-size bobsleighs are incredibly costly. The cost of training a bobsledding team and reserving a bobsleigh track makes this sport pricey, and most participants are expected to bring their own bobsleigh.

2. Formula One Racing


Formula one racing cars are designed for speed, and being fast is the name of the game. Unlike NASCAR races, formula one (also called F1) races utilize open-pit vehicles that produce very little drag. This design allows them to reach incredible speeds of 220mph or more.

However, the cost of a formula one car is typically several million dollars, with some costing more than $12 million. Additionally, formula one races require specialized tracks that are incredibly pricey.

The cost to host one of these races can reach a billion bucks or more, though racers don’t shoulder the full brunt of venue costs.

Why It’s Expensive

As with many of the most expensive sports in the world, the primary reason why F1 racing is pricey is that it requires costly equipment. But the cost to rent a formula one track also adds to overall costs.

1. Sailing


Out of all the most expensive Olympic sports, sailing reigns supreme. Also known as yachting, this sport is one of the oldest in the world, with roots that extend to the 1600s. However, Olympic sailing didn’t arise until the 20th century.

Much like vehicle races, yacht and sailboat races utilize a predetermined course. Vessels start at the same location then loop around a water course until they’ve completed the set number of laps. The winner is the first boat to cross the finish line (often two buoys positioned across from each other).

Why It’s Expensive

Equipment is the primary reason why sailing is the most expensive sport in the world. A racing yacht can cost between $5,000 and $10 million.

In addition, yacht racing teams almost always own at least two vessels, just in case their primary craft gets damaged. The base cost to participate in a sailing race can be $18 million or more.

However, training also contributes to total costs. For example, sailing lessons cost between $25 and $50 per hour. The most skilled sailors typically spend at least twelve hours (approximately two weeks of consecutive classes) learning and perfecting their skills.

Naturally, the best professional yacht racers own a yacht, allowing them to practice at any time. But storing a racing vessel at a dockyard is also pricey, with annual costs varying between $500 and $2,000.

Try the Most Expensive Sports

What is the most expensive sport in the world? The answer is sailing! After all, you’ll need a fast yacht to participate, and racing yachts typically cost several millions of dollars.

Of course, the most expensive terrestrial sport is formula one racing. As with sailing, the cost of this sport is primarily attributable to costly equipment.

There are far more expensive activities to explore, so be sure to check out our blog today!