The four major U.S. sports leagues hold about $5.8 billion in pension assets among them, up about 25% from 2014. Major League Baseball’s pension, started in 1947, was the largest plan by assets with $3.1 billion followed by the National Football League plan – opened in 1962 – at $2.2 billion. The NHL’s much younger plan more than doubled its assets during the period. The modest increase in the pension assets of the National Basketball League is more a product of data availability than plan management; 2016 was the most recent year reported by the Society of Actuaries. As a result, those valuations, as of April 1, 2016, would have been lower because of a flat 2015 equity market and poor first quarter of 2016.
The NFL’s plan showed the greatest improvement over the three-year period, (ended when?) as its funding ratio rose to 83% from 55%. The increase was the result of benefit reductions in 2015 that summarily lowered its liabilities by $500 million. Despite an above average funding ratio, the NHL’s plan is showing early signs of maturity. Its funded status declined as its liability growth began to outpace asset growth.
*2017 NBA numbers are as of the end of league-year 2016