Income falls, but the song remains the same in football’s money league

WITH no sign of a resumption of football as a spectator sport, Europe’s top clubs could be € 2 billion out of pocket by the end of the current season. That was the view of Deloitte as they unveiled their latest Football Money League for 2021 this week.

There’s few surprises in terms of the listing, the top 14 remains the top 14 as it has done for three years. The deckchairs are slightly rearranged, Manchester United falling to fourth, Liverpool climbing to fifth, Arsenal still out of the top 10 and Real Madrid and Barcelona slugging it out at the top. There are two new entrants in the 20: Gazprom-backed Zenit St. Petersburg and Eintracht Frankfurt. Zenit, the Russian champions, are the only club in the 20 from outside the “big five” European leagues.

Football clubs across Europe have suffered from a loss of revenue due to the pandemic. The average income for the top 20 totalled € 409 million, some € 55 million lower than in 2018-19. The league with the highest overall fall was the Premier League, € 413 million, while the biggest drop to the average club income was seen in Spain and France € 68 million.

All the top clubs saw their overall revenues decline, Barcelona, the number one club by income (€ 715m) experienced a 15% fall, but the downturn varied at Real Madrid (-6%), Bayern Munich (-4%), Manchester United (-19%), Liverpool (-8%), Manchester City (-11%) and Paris Saint-Germain (-15%). While matchday and broadcasting income fell right across the board, 12 of Deloitte’s top 20 were boosted by increased commercial revenues. Tottenham were the only club in the top 10 to enjoy increased matchday cash. Deloitte suggested that matchday revenue for 2020-21, should the current situation continue, would be close to zero. 

Deloitte’s top 10

Pos 2021 Pos 2020 Club Revenues € m Change %

Domestic Lge pos 2019-20

1 1 Barcelona 715.1 -15 2
2 2 Real Madrid 714.9 -6 1
3 4 Bayern Munich 634.1 -4 1
4 3 Manchester Utd 580.4 -19 3
5 7 Liverpool 558.6 -8 1
6 6 Manchester City 549.2 -11 2
7 5 Paris St-Germain 540.6 -15 1
8 9 Chelsea 411.9 -9 4
9 8 Tottenham 445.7 -15 6
10 10 Juventus 397.9 -13 1

Within the little-changed membership of the league, there are some interesting signs of the changing landscape. For example, the two Manchester clubs have never been closer in terms of their revenues. In 2014-15, United had an advantage of £ 143 million, a figure that was eroded to £ 87 million by 2018. In 2019-20, the differential became just £ 28 million. Similarly, the three-way battle between London rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham is changing all the time.  

Five years ago, Arsenal were generating the highest revenues in London, £ 350 million. Tottenham’s total was just £ 209 million at the same stage. In 2018, Arsenal were in Deloitte’s top six, but as their revenues have declined, thanks to the loss of perpetual Champions League football. They have been overtaken by Tottenham and Chelsea and find themselves outside the top 10 for the second successive year. 

Italian clubs have experienced very mixed fortunes, although Juventus maintained their top 10 position. Inter have plateaued at 14 for the third consecutive year, but their San Siro house mates, AC Milan, have sunk to a place outside the 20 at number 30.

With Barcelona embroiled in internal politics and Real still burdened by an ageing squad, both Spanish giants also have infrastructure projects that will hamper their financial progress in the coming year. With that in mind, their place at the head of Deloitte’s interesting snapshot table may be threatened by European champions Bayern Munich. As Deloitte so candidly stated, the full impact of covid-19 may not be realised for some years to come. One thing is fairly certain, though, the clubs in Deloitte’s study should come through the crisis a little challenged but intact, unlike some of their smaller cousins.

Photo: PA

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