When it comes to nations of sport lovers, one thing is for certain: both Americans and Australians love nothing more than a good game. But what is in question is exactly which games it is they love so much. In the US, for example, baseball and American football are the order of the day – while Australia’s British heritage means that people there tend to enjoy a spot of cricket or rugby instead. This article will give the lowdown on just what the differences are in the sporting profiles of these two competitive and sport-loving nations, and look at which of the two countries – if either – is likely to surge ahead in the sporting battles of the future.
Australia has long since been one of the world’s biggest names in the world of cricket. It has often taken the top spot in the test cricket rankings and its team is considered one of the best in the world. This legacy comes in large part from Australia’s past as a colony of Britain: while it has essentially been independent since 1901, the cultural hangover remains. Most cricket fans will be aware of The Ashes, which is fought once every two years between England and Australia – and there are plenty of other links between the nations.
Before the pandemic began, Cricket Australia – the governing body for the sport in the country – reported that it was seeing not just high revenues but a constant, multimillion-dollar surplus. One year, for example, it reported a surplus of around $18 million Australian dollars. This reflects high interest in the sport, especially given that revenues come from attendance and other fan-led spending decisions.
Another sporting link between Britain and Australia lies in the fact that rugby is popular in both countries. In Oz, the National Rugby League draws in hundreds of millions of Australian dollars in revenue each year. As is the case with cricket, there’s simply no comparison in the US. There, rugby is low on the list of popular sports: there is a national team and several hundred college teams, but little public awareness and a limited fan base when compared to basketball or baseball.
The clue, of course, is in the name. American football is one of the biggest and most lucrative sports in the US. American football stands in contrast to soccer, which is technically known as association football – and which is far more associated with the teams of Europe, the UK and South America. American football differs in many ways, including the shape of the ball as well as the rules.
It’s big business in the US – and further afield. It draws an average of 15 million TV viewers a year, and its revenues are well over $10 billion US dollars per annum. The level of betting on NFL that exists also speaks to the sport’s popularity, with the League believed to be ready to pull in around $2 billion extra per year as a result. When comparing the NFL to the AFL, the AFL pales in comparison to these numbers. Furthermore, what’s interesting, is that American football is starting to become more global in its reach and popularity.
Australia is no exception: it has its very own governing body, known as Gridiron Australia, and there are players and teams in various parts of the country. America’s over-representation in global popular culture has ensured that American football is recognisable as far away as Perth – and this shows no signs of changing.
If American football is one of the most recognisably American sports internationally, baseball is probably just as identifiable domestically. The US is, for sure, a country of baseball fans: the league is comprised of 30 teams and there are almost 10 million viewers for the World Series. Baseball, interestingly, has not quite taken off internationally or in Australia in the same way as American football. However, there is some talk of American MLB – which stands for Major League Baseball – coming to Melbourne in the next few years, so this could well be about to change.
In short, both the US and Australia are countries with strong sporting bases. From the love that many Australians have for cricket and rugby to the lucrative and highly popular sports of baseball and American football in the US, there’s little doubting that these countries are some of the sportiest in the world. The major difference between the two countries is in which sports they love. Ultimately, it may well be that the US – with the increasing role it plays in globalised sport – will win this battle: the small but growing popularity of American football in Australian cities suggests that this particular cultural exchange is a one-way street.