Sports Through the Lens of Economic History

Sports Through the Lens of Economic History

New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series

Edited by Richard Pomfret and John K. Wilson

From professional team sports to international events such as the Olympics and Tour de France, the modern sports industry continues to attract a large number of spectators and participants. This book, edited by Richard Pomfret and John K. Wilson analyzes the economic evolution of sports over the last 150 years, from a pastime activity to a big business enterprise. It begins at a time when entrepreneurs and players first started making money from professional sports leagues, through to the impact of radio and TV in the twentieth century, and onto the present day.

Chapter 4: An economic history of the Tour de France, 1903–2015

Jean-François Mignot

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought, sports


Since its creation in 1903, the Tour de France has remained the biggest of all professional cycling events. This chapter aims to present three aspects of the economic history of the Tour de France and what they tell us about the economic history of sport. First, the Tour has always been owned by private newspaper and media companies. This is why I analyze the level and composition of these companies’ turnover, their business strategies and the reasons for their overall success. Second, Tour riders have always been professionals. This is why I analyze riders’ incomes and prize money and their distribution, which shows clear “winner-takes-all” aspects. Third, the demand for sport shows by Tour spectators reveals broad trends in Europe’s economic history since the early 20th century: the diffusion of bicycles, newspapers and mass consumption, the increase in leisure time, and the advent of the mass media.

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