The Ecosystems of Sports Leagues

Sports Leagues are entities that are complex because they consist of fans, players, teams, and businesses. Whenever you have complexity you need an ecosystem that supports that complexity and Sports Leagues have their own ecosystem too. Actually, I would argue that there are not one, but three ecosystems that support Sports Leagues. These are:

  • The Hereditary Ecosystem
  • The Pyramidal Ecosystem
  • The Frontier Ecosystem

I will discuss each Ecosystem below.

The Hereditary Ecosystem

This ecosystem is a sequential, staged arrangement, illustrated with a horizontal table. The table demonstrates the evolutionary formation of the Major Leagues and the Pyramidal ecosystem that follows it. The table is three stages that run right to left, Stage 1 to Stage 2 and then to Stage 3.

Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3
Proto-LeaguesElite LeaguesMajor Leagues
The Hereditary Ecosystem

Stage 1 – At this stage we see the creation of Proto-Leagues, which are earliest leagues that are formed. These leagues were informal arrangements with team membership and game scheduling being fluid. Proto-Leagues have little legacy of their own outside of being a launching pad for the strongest, ambitious teams to go on to form a stronger league entity known as an Elite League or Stage 2 of the Hereditary Ecosystem.

Stage 2 – At this stage we see the creation of Elite Leagues where the strongest teams from the predecessor Proto-Leagues come together to establish a formal, rule-based structure. The leagues would have an exclusive, set team membership and an established schedule. Elite Leagues leave a legacy by carrying on to eventually form Major Leagues or Stage 3 of the Hereditary Ecosystem.

Stage 3 – At this final stage we see the creation of Major Leagues which establishes dominance in the sport by being home to the richest teams and best players and carrying a legacy that crosses generations. A Major League when established will form an Ecosystem around it, called the Pyramidal Ecosystem which is listed below.

The Pyramidal Ecosystem

Once an Elite League forms a Major League, we then see the beginning of a pyramidal ecosystem where at the top of the pyramid is the Major League. The table below should best be visualized as a pyramid but due to technical limitations, it is a square table that lists the tiers from 1 to 6, with Tier 1 being the pinnacle.

Tier 1
Major Sports League
The pinnacle of the sport’s pyramid. Major Leagues are national in name, scope, stability, and famous in attracting players across the world. Standings tracked at
Tier 2
Rival League
The Tier below Major Leagues are those league that competed against them and did not survive. Standings tracked at
Tier 3
Top-Minor League
The Tier below Riva Leagues are those leagues that works for the Majors, helping develop player talent and depth. Standings tracked at
Tier 4
Low-Minor League
The Tier below Top-Minor Leagues are those leagues that are independent or works for the Top-Minors or indirectly with the Majors. League page tracked at
Tier 5
Junior Development Leagues
The Tier below Low-Minor Leagues are those leagues that develops young players. While Junior Development Leagues exist across all sports, these are not tracked by FanSeeStats with the exception of those tracked on
Tier 6
Obsolete Leagues
The final Tier is essentially a graveyard of numerous leagues who failed to make any impact of import despite playing the same sport as the Big Leagues. Running a sports leagues is harsh and most do not survive. The Obsolete League Roster at is the graveyard of these failed leagues.
The Major League Pyramid Ecosystem

The Frontier

These leagues attempt(ed) to make their own way in the Sports Industry by doing something different. They fall outside of the Pyramid and are what I would consider to be in the Frontier Ecosystem. The table below is intended to be a set of columns that stand apart from each other, with each column being its own Frontier.

Top Player LeagueAlternate Major LeagueWomen’s Major LeagueObsolete League
In unique environments where the conditions are right (i.e. investor money and players) we can find the Top Player League. Despite getting top players to play in their league these leagues would not survive or leave any legacy. A sports league that is not one of the Big Four Sports. This could be Soccer, Lacrosse, etc.A sports league across the entire spectrum (Big Four or Alternate) that is played by women.Pro sports leagues is a harsh business and the majority of leagues fail. The Obsolete League Roster is the graveyard of these failed leagues.
The Frontier Ecosystem

So I hope you can see the richness of the different types of Sports Leagues that are being tracked on FanSeeStats. This is a conceptual framework that I think makes sense and can help us understand how modern Sports Leagues have come to play such a big part of modern society.

Long live sports!

– AY

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