Although ticket prices for all sports events have gone up over the past years, sports fans are still willing to pay more. However, US sports fans continue spending way more money on buying tickets than any other nation.

According to data presented by SportsLens.com, US sports fans are expected to spend a whopping $13bn buying tickets to watch matches live at stadiums or two and a half times more than Britons, Chinese, Japanese, and Canadians combined.

US Sports Fans to Spend an Average of $300 on Sports Tickets, 3x More than the Global Average

Due to the surging sports ticket prices, the revenue in the global sports events market has jumped by almost 60% between 2017 and 2022, rising from $17.3bn to $27.2bn worldwide. This includes revenues from online sales of tickets for all professional sporting events, from football, basketball, baseball, and other ball sports, to golf, tennis, Formula 1, and NASCAR. The US sports ticket market has had a major role in this revenue growth.

According to Statista Digital Market Insights, in 2023, sports fans worldwide will spend close to $29bn buying tickets to watch sports matches live at stadiums, and 45% of that value will come from the United States. As the single largest sports events market, the United States has seven times higher revenue than the United Kingdom, whose sports fans are expected to spend $1.83bn to watch matches live this year. As the third-largest market, China will see $1.68bn in revenue. Japan and Canada follow, with $1.15bn and $1.11bn, respectively.

Statista expects global sports ticket sales revenue to grow by 8% in the next two years and hit $31.2bn in 2025. The US market is forecast to see a 6.7% growth in this period and close to $14bn in revenue.

The Statista survey also showed US sports fans would spend an average of $298.8 on sports tickets this year or three times the global average of $96.5. Europeans will pay around $140 to attend sports events, while the Chinese will spend six times less than that. The United Kingdom is the only European country close to the United States when talking about buying sports tickets. In 2023, Britons are expected to spend an average of $228 on buying sports tickets, or $70 less than US sports fans.

One in Six People Buying Sports Tickets in 2023 is from the United States

Besides revenue growth, the sports events market has also seen a considerable increase in the number of people buying tickets to watch matches live in stadiums. Since 2017, more than 41 million people started buying sports tickets online, pushing the total user count to over 300 million this year.

Statistics also show that one in six people buying sports tickets in 2023 is from the United States, which counts 43.8 million users as of this year. Although far below the US in revenue, China will see almost 70 million users in 2023. Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada follow, with 12.3 million, 8 million, and 4.5 million users in the sports events market, respectively.

The police were hot on his trail for two murders and when pressured by the leader of his new gang to explain what he’d done, Trestan Brown confided in her. He figured he could trust her. She was, after all, a fellow criminal.

“Be up front with me and I’ll take care of you,” the gang leader, Steph, told Mr. Brown in a hotel room along the lakefront of Kingston, Ontario, according to court records.

So Mr. Brown, who is now 30, confessed, describing his role in the 2016 shooting deaths of two men in the Toronto area — and soon found himself under arrest.

Steph, it turned out, wasn’t a crime boss and her group wasn’t a gang. They were undercover officers conducting a “Mr. Big” operation, an elaborate Canadian policing tactic that is being challenged in court and that some opponents want banned.

An invention of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or R.C.M.P., the technique involves officers creating a fake criminal enterprise, then enticing a target to join and ultimately confess to previous crimes.

It has been used in hundreds of cold cases across Canada, with a 95 percent success rate in securing convictions, according to the Mounties. Law enforcement agencies in a handful of other countries have even copied the method.

But critics argue that the confessions obtained in Mr. Big operations are unreliable because they are often coerced.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada established safeguards aimed at reducing the risk of wrongful convictions. But pitfalls persist, said Alison Craig, a criminal defense lawyer in Toronto who has represented several people ensnared by the technique, including Mr. Brown.

The police still use threats, inducements — such as financial incentives — promises and psychological control to elicit confessions, critics said.

“It’s just a recipe for wrongful convictions,” Ms. Craig said.

Defending the practice are the police themselves and the families of some victims. Cpl. Kim Chamberland, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said the tactic had also been used to exonerate suspects.

“The focus is on uncovering the truth, verifying facts and determining if someone is involved,” in major crimes, Corporal Chamberland wrote in an email.

In the United States, federal law enforcement agencies have used undercover informants to lure people who have expressed vague support for terrorism or terrorist groups into committing crimes by making it seem that the informants can, for example, provide arms or money.

The practice, which became more common after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has been criticized by civil liberties groups and defense lawyers as a form of entrapment that can sweep up people who never had the resources or the actual intent to carry out violence.

The Mr. Big operations in Canada are typically broader than relying on outside informants and involve groups of law enforcement officers themselves working undercover and concocting an elaborate ruse to target people believed to have committed crimes.

In popular culture, “Mr. Big” refers to someone who heads a criminal organization. Since the 1980s, when the R.C.M.P. started using it, Mr. Big operations have been conducted more than 350 times in Canada and tend to follow the same playbook.

First, undercover officers contrive a situation to cross paths with the target of an investigation. In Mr. Brown’s case, the officers played the role of strangers buying his broken down car for parts.

The officers play up the illusion of a shared criminal history and befriend the target, who is steadily given greater criminal responsibilities by the fake gang and compensated for work.

Orchestrated violence, including simulated beatings, can help add legitimacy to the ruse, and stoke fear of Mr. Big. Some are especially graphic.

Al Potter, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2019 following a Mr. Big operation in Newfoundland, helped undercover officers bury, in a remote cornfield, what he thought was the body of a man who owed a debt to the gang. It turned out to be a dead pig stuffed in a hockey bag.

Finally, the sting shifts toward eliciting a confession. The officer playing Mr. Big threatens to cut ties unless the target explains why the police are targeting him, reassured that Mr. Big is powerful enough to make his problem disappear.

Since the 2014 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, prosecutors seeking to use the secretly recorded confessions obtained through Mr. Big operations must first persuade a judge that they comply with certain standards.

But judges don’t seem to agree about how to apply the standards, according to a review of 61 cases published by the Manitoba Law Journal. The 2014 ruling “does not appear to have had a significant impact” on whether confessions are allowed in court, the authors concluded.

Some inmates who confessed under Mr. Big operations, especially before the 2014 ruling, have appealed their convictions and sued law enforcement officials, accusing them of misconduct.

One of the most publicized exonerations was that of Kyle Unger, who was vindicated by DNA evidence after spending 14 years in jail for a 1990 murder and sexual assault. In 2019, he reached an out-of-court settlement after claiming 14.5 million Canadian dollars (about $10.7 million) in damages against the police and various justice authorities.

In another well-publicized case, Canada’s justice minister, David Lametti, issued a rare decision and intervened in favor of an inmate, Wade Skiffington.

Mr. Lametti found that there was probably a miscarriage of justice in the conviction of Mr. Skiffington, who was found guilty of second-degree murder after confessing, during a Mr. Big sting, to the 1994 killing of his fiancée in British Columbia.

Mr. Lametti referred the case, which had exhausted its appeals, back to the province’s appeal court, where Mr. Skiffington’s lawyers will argue for his exoneration.

The necessity of Mr. Lametti’s intervention “gives renewed cause for concern about these types of investigations,” said Matthew Gourlay, a criminal lawyer in Toronto who has petitioned high courts against the use of Mr. Big operations.

The country’s Department of Justice announced in February that an independent commission would be created to hear cases from other defendants who have exhausted their court appeals.

A legal flaw with Mr. Big operations is that targets are effectively under state control, as if being detained, yet they cannot be warned of their right to silence or right to counsel, said Timothy Moore, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto.

“That’s the major wrinkle with Mr. Big,” said Professor Moore, who has studied the technique and been consulted on several Mr. Big cases. “The police can do and say things that they otherwise could not if the target was aware that he’s dealing with state agents.”

Still, the Mr. Big technique has spread beyond Canada to other countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

In Australia, public support for it grew after the tactic was used to solve two high-profile child murders, said Michele Ruyters, a criminal law professor at RMIT University in Melbourne and founder of an organization that investigates claims of wrongful conviction.

“It’s very difficult to advocate against Mr. Big schemes because they appear to be so successful in these notorious cases,” Ms. Ruyters said.

The expense of running these investigations and the ensuing “thorny issues” make Mr. Big operations a tool of last resort, but an important one, said Richard Boyington, a retired sergeant from Brantford, Ontario.

“Think of yourself as the family of the victim,” said Mr. Boyington, who managed a Mr. Big sting in the early 2000s that led to a murder conviction. “You would want the police to do everything within their lawful power to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion.”

Mr. Brown was one of many defendants who never challenged their convictions after being stung by Mr. Big. He pleaded guilty to the 2016 killings and was sentenced in October to life in prison with no chance of parole for 16 years.

He shot and killed one of his victims, Abdullah Farah, in a case of mistaken identity. Mr. Farah, a college student in California who was visiting his family, was a funny and outgoing 20-year-old man “that everyone loved,” said his sister, Ifrah Farah.

She is apprenticing as a lawyer at a corporate law firm and remains ambivalent about Mr. Big stings but is relieved that her brother’s murder was solved after years when the investigation “felt kind of hopeless,” she said. “We would have just been left always wondering what happened.”

While the torrent of leaks about possible interference by China in Canadian politics seems to have ebbed, the uproar over them continues and the federal government presented a budget this week containing some measures it hopes will deal with such meddling.

The budget sets aside 13.5 million Canadian dollars to establish a National Counter-Foreign Interference Office, and it will give the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 50 million dollars to counter harassment of Canadian immigrants by their authoritarian home countries.

To educate the public about foreign influence campaigns that target Canada, a group of researchers published a detailed examination of one such campaign this week: a Russian effort to use of Twitter to mould Canadian public opinion about its invasion of Ukraine. The research held some surprises for its authors — pro-Russian messages were being promoted not only by far-right groups who openly expressed approval of Russia under President Vladimir V. Putin, but were also spread by far-left groups.

The researchers analyzed Twitter data from the year preceding the invasion and for the year following it. From that, they determined that about 90 Twitter accounts — most of them based in Canada, and all run by real users, not bots — were responsible for driving a pro-Moscow line that was retweeted or liked by about 200,000 other accounts during those two years.

As they anticipated, the majority of those 90 key accounts — 59 percent — belong to members of the far right, including many supporters of last year’s trucker convoys, who have long admired Mr. Putin. Less anticipated, however, was the large number of pro-Russian accounts — 33 percent — controlled by people the researchers identified as members of the far left. Their messages, the researchers say, were less based on favoring Mr. Putin than on opposing war and NATO, but they echoed far-right phrases like “NATO is responsible for the war.”

The unintended result, the report said, is that the “political far left and far right have found common ground: undermining public support for Canadian financial, humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.”

“What was interesting is that the far left played a much more prominent role,” Brian McQuinn, a professor at the University of Regina and the co-director of its Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Data and Conflict, told me. “In Canada, that had not been identified before.”

The paper was also written by researchers at Digital Public Square, a group in Toronto that works on improving online privacy, civility and political engagement as well as the University of Maryland College of Information Studies. The work was partly funded by the governments of Canada and the United States.

The influence campaign adapted many of its messages for a Canadian audience with posts like “Canada’s foreign policy is controlled by Ukrainian Canadians” and “Canadian sanctions are responsible for inflation and rising energy costs.” Chrystia Freeland, the deputy prime minister who is of Ukrainian heritage, fluent in the language and once lived in Ukraine, was a particular target. (In her other capacity as finance minister, Ms. Freeland introduced the budget containing the measures to counter foreign interference.)

The data analysis showed, Professor McQuinn said, that in the three months before the invasion, there was basically a doubling of tweets promoting a Russian narrative aimed at Canada. “You can see the premeditated preparation for the actual invasion and then kind of a continuing increase every month ever since,” he said.

Polls show that support for helping Ukraine remains strong in Canada. So I asked Professor McQuinn if Moscow’s campaign was a waste of time and money.

He disagreed.

“This wouldn’t matter if the narratives were not being picked up by literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians,” Professor McQuinn said.

The 90 accounts that comprised the Russia-aligned Twitter network had more followers, engagement with other social media users and produced more material than all the federal members of Parliament and more than all the 20 “most influential” Twitter accounts in Canada, the researchers found.

“The network is actually one of the most active online communities in Canada,” Professor McQuinn said, noting that researchers in his group have been tracking most of the core 90 accounts for years. “It would be interesting to know what the Russians actually spend on this, because they seem to be committed to it and they seem to be putting a lot of energy and time into it.”

The researchers also had a polling firm conduct a survey about Russian influence and disinformation campaigns. Among other things, a quarter of its respondents agreed that NATO started the current fighting in Ukraine or thought that was at least possibly the case — although there is no truth to the claim.

The report has a number of recommendations that its authors believe could allow the government and social media companies to at least mitigate the influence of such online campaigns.

But Professor McQuinn said that the only truly effective solution is teaching people how to recognize when someone is trying to manipulate them.

“The amount of critical media analysis that the average person has is ultimately the most important piece,” he told me. “We need to talk about how we infuse that throughout middle school and high school and actually have this become a cornerstone of education for kids.”

  • The commission that examined the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history has documented how inadequate police command and communication, confusion and rigid thinking among officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police prolonged the 13-hour rampage, adding to its death toll.

  • Following decades of demands from Indigenous people, the Vatican formally repudiated the “Doctrine of Discovery,” a legal concept based on 15th-century papal documents that European colonial powers used to legitimize the seizure and exploitation of lands in Africa and the Americas, among other places, Elisabetta Povoledo reports from Rome.

  • Fiona will be retired as an Atlantic tropical cyclone name given the destruction a storm of that name brought to several areas last September, including Atlantic Canada. Also gone, for similar reasons, is Ian.

  • Would-be asylum seekers attempting to enter Canada at Roxham Road on Saturday were in for disappointment as officials moved swiftly to put in place the border agreement announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Biden.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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