A couple of weeks ago Deloitte published the 19th edition of their annual Football Money League, which ranks leading clubs by revenue, this time for the 2014/15 season. On the face of it, little has changed compared to the previous year, as Real Madrid once again top the table for the 11th year in a row with annual revenue of €577 million (£439 million), and there are no new entrants in the top 10.
However, there has been some movement with Barcelona (€561 million) overtaking both Manchester United (€520 million) and Bayern Munich (€474 million) to reclaim second place, as they became only the third club to break the €500 million revenue barrier.
In turn, United fell to third place, while Bayern dropped to fifth place, the first time in 12 years that it has slipped down the table. Paris-Saint Germain (€481 million) climbed to fourth place, the highest position ever achieved by a French club, on the back of their commercial growth.
The seemingly inexorable rise of the English clubs continued apace, as the top 20 now includes nine clubs from the Premier League. Although the Spanish giants still lead the way, there are no fewer than five English clubs in the top nine: Manchester United £395 million, Manchester City £353 million, Arsenal £331 million, Chelsea £320 million and Liverpool £298 million.
Then, a fair way back, come Tottenham Hotspur £196 million, Newcastle United £129 million, Everton £126 million and West Ham £122 million.
Total revenue for the top 20 clubs rose €470 million (8%) from €6.161 billion to €6.631 billion, split between commercial €2.7 billion (41%), broadcasting €2.6 billion (39%) and match day €1.3 billion (19%).
However, individual clubs sometimes have a very different revenue mix. Within the top 20, the highest reliance on a specific revenue stream was as follows: match day – Arsenal 30%; broadcasting – Everton 69%; commercial – Paris-Saint Germain 62%.
On the other side of the coin, the clubs with the smallest share of their total revenue from each category were: match day – Milan 11%; broadcasting – Paris-Saint Germain 22%; commercial – Everton 16%.
It is worth emphasising the role that exchange rates play in these rankings, as Sterling has strengthened by 10% against the Euro (moving from 1.1958 last year to 1.3145 this year). This has greatly benefited the English clubs relative to their continental counterparts. In fact, around half (€262 million) of the €532 million year-on-year growth for this year’s top 20 clubs is purely down to this FX movement, leaving the real growth as €270 million (4%).
This effect is perhaps best highlighted with Manchester United, whose revenue increased in Euro terms by €2 million from €518 million to €520 million. However, the exchange rate movement produce a Euro increase of €51 million, so their underlying revenue actually fell by €50 million. This is backed up by looking at their figures in Sterling, where the revenue decreased by £38 million from £433 million to £395 million.
Partly as a result of this favourable movement in exchange rates, the revenue of all English clubs grew compared to 2013/14 with Liverpool €86 million and Arsenal €76 million leading the way.
It’s a slightly different story if the FX impact is stripped out, with the most impressive real growth being reported by Barcelona €76 million, Liverpool €56 million, Roma €53 million, Juventus €45 million and Arsenal €41 million. The big losers were Milan €51 million, Manchester United €50 million and Bayern Munich €14 million.
The main drivers for the revenue growth in 2014/15 were broadcasting €207 million (up 9%) and commercial €202 million (up 8%). The match day increase lagged at €60 million, but this still represented 5% growth.
The revenue growth at the leading football clubs in the last few years is remarkable, rising from below €4 billion in 2009 to the current €6.6 billion, an increase of €2.7 billion (just under 70%). Deloitte expect the €7 billion threshold to be reached next season with new TV deals driving the total towards €8 billion in 2016/17.
Perhaps surprising to some, commercial income has been the main contributor with growth of €1.5 billion (115%) from €1.3 billion to €2.7 billion, followed by broadcasting, up €1.0 billion from €1.6 billion to €2.6 billion. In the same period, match day has risen by less than €0.3 billion (25%) from €1.0 billion to €1.3 billion.
These growth rates have obviously been reflected in the revenue share. Since 2009, commercial has significantly increased from 32% to 41%, while broadcasting has eased from 42% to 39%. Match day has slumped from 26% to just 19%, its lowest ever share.
In fact, with further increases anticipated in commercial and broadcasting revenue in the coming years, the revenue that clubs generate from match day should fall in importance even more than its current record low. This trend of corporates paying more for a club’s upkeep than the match going supporters could be considered a good thing – so long as the growth elsewhere were reflected in lower ticket prices.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have the highest broadcasting revenue with £152 million apiece, as they continue to benefit from the freedom to negotiate their own lucrative TV rights deals for La Liga. Even though this is due to change next season, the new collective deal is significantly higher than the aggregate of the previous individual arrangements – and the big two will be protected from any revenue reduction.
Juventus are in third place, partly due to receiving the highest Champions League distribution of £68 million (€89 million). This is heavily influenced by their share of the Italian market pool, due to a combination of a very good TV deal and the fact that they only had to divide this with one other Italian club, Roma, as these were the only two to qualify for the group stages.
"Play to win"
The importance of revenue from European competition is highlighted by Paris Saint-Germain, whose £43 million payout was actually higher than their domestic money £38 million. Similarly, Atletico Madrid generated half of their broadcasting money from Europe. This will be further emphasised by the higher Champions League deal starting from the 2015/16 season.
The English clubs fill all the places between fourth and tenth for broadcasting income, thanks to the size of the Premier League contract. This is even before next year’s blockbuster deal, which should increase the TV revenue of the top clubs by around £50 million a season.
The relative weakness of the Bundesliga TV deal is evidenced here with the German clubs towards the lower end of the table. Their domestic money is nowhere near the English clubs: Bayern Munich £43 million, Borussia Dortmund £37 million and Schalke £33 million.
Commercially, six clubs are well above the rest: Paris-Saint German £226 million, Bayern Munich £212 million, Manchester United £201 million, Real Madrid £188 million, Barcelona £186 million and Manchester City £174 million. There then follows a big gap to Liverpool at £116 million.
Indeed, there is much work to do for many English clubs on the commercial side with three of them filling the bottom spots: in the top 20: Everton £20 million, West Ham £24 million and Newcastle £25 million.
PSG benefited from renewed deals with Emirates and Nike, but the lion’s share of their revenue comes from their innovative €200 million arrangement with the Qatar Tourism Authority. Barcelona also saw a hefty commercial increase, partly due to additional sponsorship bonuses paid in their treble winning season.
There seems little sign of a saturation point being reached commercially, at least for the elite, as Manchester United’s revenue will further increase in 2015/16 following the start of their record £750 million ten-year Adidas kit deal. Moreover, in the last few days the media has reported that even this mega deal will be eclipsed by Real Madrid signing a new 10-year contract, also with Adidas, for a staggering £106 million a season.
Arsenal have the highest match day revenue in the world with £100 million, despite the Emirates Stadium having a substantially lower capacity than the Bernabéu, home of Real Madrid, and Nou Camp, Barcelona’s famous ground. This is a reflection of Arsenal’s ticket prices and a high proportion of corporate seating.
Match day revenue has more than doubled from the £44 million Arsenal generated in their last season at Highbury, which helps explain why Tottenham and Chelsea are so keen to redevelop their grounds. Even though the construction is a significant investment, football clubs still need to assess this option or risk falling further behind their rivals.
What is particularly striking is the low match day income for Italian clubs. Juventus’ move to a club-owned stadium has helped increase their revenue to £39 million, but the others’ revenue is miles behind: Roma £23 million, Milan and Inter both £17 million. It was recently reported that the average attendance in Serie A had dropped below 22,000 in the 2015/16 season.
For the fourth time in the last seven seasons the Money League top 20 clubs is wholly populated by representatives from the “Big Five” leagues, namely England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France. The number of English clubs rose from eight to a record nine, while the other leagues were unchanged: Italy four, Germany three, Spain three and France one. The only club from outside the “Big Five” last year, Galatasaray from Turkey, dropped to 21st place.
England only had six clubs in the top 20 in 2013, but funnily enough had eight back in 2006, so the current dominance is not a completely new phenomenon. The big losers are Germany, whose representation has fallen from five clubs in 2009 to three, and France, who had three clubs in 2012, but now just the one.
Turkey had two clubs in the top 20 as recently as 2013, while the last time a Scottish club made the rankings was Celtic in 2007. Portugal’s last representative was Benfica a year earlier in 2006.
The top 30 clubs is where the English strength is really reflected with the number of representatives rising from eight in 2013 to 17 in 2015 (up 3 from 14 in 2014), including three debutants: Crystal Palace, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion. As Deloitte observed, “This is again testament to the phenomenal broadcast success of the English Premier League and the relative equality of its distributions, giving its non-Champions League clubs particularly a considerable advantage internationally.”
This has produced some notable exclusions from the top 30, including Valencia, Seville, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Lazio, Fiorentina, Marseille, Lyon, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Porto, Benfica and Celtic.
If we look at the growth of the highest ranked club in each of the “Big Five” leagues since 2009, the absolute growth of Real Madrid (€176 million), Manchester United (€193 million) and Bayern Munich (£184 million) is broadly similar, though the percentage growth is much smaller at Madrid (44%), compared to United (59%) and Bayern (63%).
The outlier is Paris Saint-Germain, whose revenue has shot up by €380 million from €101 million to €481 million since the Qatari takeover. Juve have recorded impressive growth of 60%, but in absolute terms the increase was “only” €121 million, which means that the gap to the other four clubs has widened.
Despite a sizeable reduction in revenue following their failure to qualify for Europe in 2014/15, Manchester United still managed to remain in the top three of the Money League, thus demonstrating the underlying strength of the club’s business model.
In England, the two Manchester clubs (United and City) continued to lead the way, but Arsenal overtook Chelsea, due to the commencement of the new kit supplier deal with Puma. Liverpool’s healthy growth was due to the Reds’ return to the Champions League, which boosted both broadcasting and match day revenue.
Since 2009 Manchester City have registered the stand-out growth of £362 million, which is around twice as much as their peers, mainly due to their commercial success, including the celebrated Etihad deal.
Despite their revenue fall in 2015 (in Sterling terms), United are still well ahead of City, while there is a bunching of the pursuers (Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool), whose relative positions basically depend on the timing of their principal sponsorship agreements, e.g. Chelsea’s Yokohama Rubber deal will only be included in the next set of figures.
In a similar way, the revenue at the mid-tier clubs (Newcastle United, Everton and West Ham) is also converging, albeit at a much lower level. The interesting one is Tottenham, who are stuck in the middle between the top five clubs and the rest. “Neither Fish Nor Flesh”, as Terence Trent D’Arby once put it.
In Spain, it’s essentially a case of the rich get richer, though Barcelona’s growth last year (€76 million) was much better than Real Madrid (€28 million). Nevertheless, Madrid kept their noses in front and their figures will soon be enhanced by the barely credible new kit supplier deal with Adidas.
The other Spanish clubs are so far behind that they are almost out of sight with the nearest challenger being Atletico Madrid at €187 million – exactly one third of Barca’s revenue. Valencia did not even reach the top 30 clubs, which is unsurprising given that their 2014 revenue was less than €100 million.
There will be a boost in broadcast revenue for Spanish clubs with the new collective selling regime in La Liga, but the gap will remain massive.
In Germany, the situation is even worse, as Bayern Munich are in a league of their own. Despite a dip in revenue in 2015, due to a decrease in commercial income, Bayern’s €474 million is nearly €200 million more than Borussia Dortmund’s €281 million with Schalke 04 another €61 million behind. Incredibly, there is then a further €100 million difference to the closest German clubs, namely Hamburg and Stuttgart.
Since 2009 only Dortmund have managed to keep pace with Bayern, at least in terms of growth: €175 million vs. €184 million. In the same period, Schalke only grew by €95 million, while Stuttgart’s revenue was flat and Hamburg’s actually fell.
How do you say, “mind the gap”, in German?
In Italy, it’s a similar story, as Juventus’ revenue of €324 million is €125 million more than Milan’s €199 million. The bianconeri also led the way in Italy in 2009, but since then they have increased their revenue by €121 million, while it has been a tale of woe for their rivals from Milan: in the same period, Milan’s revenue has barely moved, while Inter’s revenue has actually fallen by €32 million to €165 million.
There has been encouraging growth at Roma, largely thanks to their return to the Champions League in 2014/15 for the first time since 2010/11. Napoli suffered from the opposite effect, as they participated in Europe’s premier competition the previous season, though they have still grown revenue by €38 million since 2009 to €126 million to creep into the top 30 clubs.
These are worrying time for Italian clubs, as they struggle to match the growth of their foreign peers, largely due to the continuing lack of stadium development, which is reflected in feeble match day income.
In 2006, it was a very different story with three Italian clubs in the top seven: Juventus 3rd, Milan 5th and Inter 7th. The nerazzurri are now perilously close to falling out of the top 20. As a man who lived three years in Milan at a time when Arrigo Sacchi’s team bestrode Europe like a colossus, it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say this, but how the mighty have fallen.
Paris Saint-Germain remain the only French club in the Money League this year and have moved up a position to fourth. Marseille and Lyon have been regular representatives in the top 20 (16th and 17th respectively in 2012), but their lack of revenue growth has seen them disappear from the rankings.
A combination of PSG’s “friendly” commercial deals and healthy Champions League income means that the financial difference between them and other French clubs is not so much a gap as an abyss. Little wonder that Ligue 1 is pretty much a cakewalk for the Parisians.
After a few years when the gap between the 10th place club and 11th place club seemed to be closing, it has widened this year from €18 million to €43 million, being the difference between Juventus €324 million and Borussia Dortmund €281 million.
The gap between top and bottom, defined as 1st place to 20th place, has been constantly growing. In fact, it has more than doubled since €207 million in 2006 to €416 million in 2015, representing the difference between Real Madrid €577 million and West Ham €161 million.
That said, the financial threshold for membership of the Money League club is becoming increasingly challenging with the requirement for a place in the top 20 rising 12% from €144 million to €161 million. This has nearly doubled in the last 10 years from €85 million.
As Deloitte noted, Napoli, down in 30th position this year with revenue of €125 million, would have had a position in the top 20 as recently as two seasons ago with the same revenue.
Although Deloitte have done a fine job in adjusting the clubs’ reported revenue figures in order to enable a meaningful, like-for-like comparison, it is still worth exploring some of these adjustments, as the supporters of individual clubs might be a little puzzled over differences with the figures they might expect to see.
I have taken an example of each of the following adjustments to demonstrate that reported revenue figures are not always black and white and there is often room for interpretation, even with something as theoretically rigorous as a football club’s accounts:
- Profit on player sales
- Different classification of revenue types
- Holding company vs. football club
- Operating income
- Change in accounting year
- Restatement of prior year revenue
- Calendar year
Continental clubs often include profit on player sales in their revenue figures, as seen by Bayern Munich boasting of €524 million revenue in their 2014/15 press release. The difference between this number and the €474 million in the Money League is the €50 million they earned from selling players.
This is further complicated with Italian clubs who include profit on player sales in revenue, but any losses made on player sales are booked in expenses.
The classification between different revenue categories can be different, as seen with Everton. Commercial revenue in the club accounts rose 37% from £19 million to £26 million, comprising sponsorship, advertising and merchandising £10.4 million plus other commercial activities £15.6 million.
This always seemed a bit high with the suspicion that Everton had included the commercial element of the Premier League TV deal within commercial income, even though most other clubs classify it as broadcasting income, and Deloitte have duly reduced commercial and increased broadcasting (though the total revenue is the same).
Football’s a simple game, but clubs increasingly operate within a more complex corporate structure. In particular, sometimes there is a holding club that owns the football club with different revenue figures (usually higher).
A good example is Chelsea, where the football club (Chelsea FC plc) had revenue of £314.3 million in 2014/15, which is around £5 million lower than the £319.5 million shown in the Money League. This is almost certainly because Deloitte have used the figures from the holding company (Fordstam Limited). Although this company has not yet published its 2015 accounts, the £324.4 million reported in 2014 is exactly the same as the figure in last year’s Money League.
Football clubs usually separate non-trading income from turnover and classify this as Other Operating Income. As an example, West Ham reported revenue (turnover) of £120.7 million, but Deloitte have also included £1.7 million of Other Operating Income to give their revenue figure of £122.4 million.
Clubs sometimes change their accounting date, i.e. when they close their accounts, which means that the length of that accounting period is not the usual 12 months. For example, Swansea City changed their close from May to July in 2014/15 in order to be more aligned to the football season, so their latest accounts cover 14 months.
Their revenue was only slightly higher, as there is no additional match day or broadcasting income in June and July, but commercial agreements are evenly accrued. Thus, Deloitte have reduced the 2014/15 revenue from the £103.9 million reported by the club to £101.0 million.
The Money League occasionally restates the revenue figures used in its own report the previous year. One example of this is Paris Saint-Germain, where Deloitte reported €474.2 million last year, but have included €471.3 million as a 2014 comparative this year. This does not impact this year’s rankings, but does affect the stated year-on-year growth.
Most clubs now use the football season for their accounting period, but some use the calendar year, especially in Italy. As an example, Milan’s most recently published accounts cover the 12 months up to 31 December 2014 and the adjusted revenue is around €215 million, which is higher than the €199 million reported by Deloitte.
The main reason for the difference is that Milan’s 2014 accounts include a part of the Champions League money they earned in the 2013/14 season.
"Paint me down"
Next year’s Money League may well see Manchester United topple Real Madrid, as the English giants are projecting revenue of £500-510 million for the 2015/16 season, following their return to the Champions League and the start of the record Adidas kit deal, which would make them the first English club to break through the half-billion pounds barrier.
Beyond that, Real Madrid might well bounce back if reports of their huge new sponsorship deal with Adidas are not exaggerated.
Obviously a club’s financial performance does not begin and end with its revenue, as explained by no less an authority than the famous German actress, Marlene Dietrich, “There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich.”
"Points of authority"
In the past, clubs suffered from what Alan Sugar’s described as the “prune juice effect”, whereby any increases in revenue simply fed through to higher player wages, transfer fees and agents’ commission.
This is no longer automatically the case, largely due to the implementation of various Financial Fair Play regulations, which has increased profitability, especially in England, thus making it more likely that overseas investors will explore the purchase of football clubs.
In “All The President’s Men” the whistle blower Deep Throat advised the investigative journalists to “Follow the money. Always follow the money.” The circumstances were clearly somewhat different in the movie, ultimately leading to the resignation of the President of the United States, but that is still sound advice that is more true than ever in the world of football.
In other words, money talks and is almost invariably reflected in success on the pitch. There might be the occasional exception to the rule, as we have seen with Leicester City's rise this season, but after all is said and done those clubs at the top of the Money League will usually be the ones competing for trophies.