MANCHESTER CITY have broken the strangehold of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United on the Deloitte Football Money League (DFML) and have topped the 2022 rankings. City jumped five places and were one of three clubs to generate more than € 600 million in revenues.
City’s income went up by 17% while most of their immediate rivals saw their earnings fall as the pandemic really hit home on top level football. Barcelona, for example, who were top in 2021 and 2020, saw their income drop by 18% to € 582 million. Barca’s recent financial problems are well documented, but covid-19 exposed some significant vulnerabilities in their business model, along with a number of other clubs. With matchday money almost disappearing completely to € 111 million, contributing just 1% of overall revenues across the DFML versus 15% in 2019-20, the importance of broadcasting and commercial streams grew substantially.
Manchester City’s climb up the DFML saw their revenues grow from £ 12.7 million to £ 571 million in the 25 years the study has been produced. In 2020-21, City benefitted from increased broadcasting (+55%) and commercial (+8%). Their commercial earnings are actually 10 times the total reported by clubs such as Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
City’s total was only just higher than Real Madrid’s € 640.7 million and some € 33 million more than Bayern Munich’s € 611 million. Bayern continued to be the most successful club in terms of commercial income, although their € 345 million was almost 5% down on the previous season. The total commercial stream across the DFML was € 3.5 billion, about 7% less than 2019-20. Seven of the top 20 saw their commercial stream grow, notably Leicester City (+39%) and Aston Villa (+20%). Conversely, Everton’s commercial activity dropped by a very worrying 39% and Manchester United fell by 21%.
The saving grace for some clubs was broadcasting income. Only one of the top 20 (Zenit), saw this stream fall, and some clubs, such as Aston Villa (+99%), West Ham (+98%) and Manchester United (+80%), enjoyed healthy improvements. Overall, broadcasting money, which totalled € 4.6 billion to the DFML clubs, contributed 56% of the overall pot, as opposed to 39% in 2019-20.
While football was vocal in its suffering during the height of the pandemic – estimates claim clubs lost € 2 billion during the crisis – the DFML teams saw their revenues remain almost static at € 8.2 billion. However, this figure was more than a billion euros down on the pre-covid 2018-19 season. The losses meant that wages consumed a greater percentage of earnings, for instance, Barcelona (84%), Inter (77%) and Leicester (85%) all had inflated and unsustainable wage-to-income ratios.
The top 20 were very active in the transfer market, spending € 2.1 billion while receiving € 891 million. The biggest spenders were Chelsea (€ 249 million), Manchester City (€ 219 million and Juventus (€ 137 million).
The top 14 of the DFML has evolved over the past five years and there is a clear gap between these elite clubs (six Premier, three La Liga, two Bundesliga, two Serie A and one Ligue 1) and the rest of the top 20, some of whom drop in and out of the list according to their season-by-season performance. The Premier, unsurprisingly, dominates the top 20 to the tune of 55% (11 clubs). There are another three Premier clubs in the 10 “bubbling under” candidates. With the Premier’s TV rights issue likely to pull further away from the other leading European leagues, the prospect of more English clubs challenging for a place in the DML seems probable. Broadcasting fees are poised to reduce in 2021-22 but this will be partially offset by a new cycle for UEFA club competitions.
The DFML highlights the clubs that are rising and falling. Manchester City, obviously, have risen the ranks in the last 10 years, while Paris Saint-Germain have also climbed and plateaued. Atlético Madrid have also joined from outside the DFML and are now perennial 13th placers. Tottenham have also improved to become top 10 mainstays, but their north London neighbours, Arsenal, have fallen from top six to a position outside the top 10. This really mirrors their performances on the field of play. Manchester United have also declined and are now at a 10-year low. AC Milan, once a top 10 player, are now clinging to the last place in the top 30.
Clubs are also showing greater awareness around social issues, inclusion and diversity, but they are still slow to back their words with action. For example, only five of the top 20 have signed the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Moreover, very few have ethnic representation on their board, although Leicester City and Manchester City have 75% and 57% respectively. Similarly, only half of the 20 have women directors and overall, there is an 11% presence of women across all boards. Juventus (40%), Tottenham (25%), Leicester (25%) and Everton (25%) lead the way. However, all 20 clubs in the DFML have a women’s football team for the first time in the 25 years of the report, in fact, many of the clubs from the list are dominating the women’s game.
Of course, the Deloitte Football Money League study only provides one snapshot of a club’s financial health and, as widely reported, some clubs have made heavy losses during the pandemic. And then there are external influences, such as at Chelsea where the Ukraine war has been the catalyst to unseat Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich as the club’s owner. The situation at Chelsea could change the way the football authorities look at club ownership in the future. Given the introduction of oil men and nation states transformed football at the highest level and created huge financial imbalances that are certainly not beneficial for the majority of [smaller] clubs, not everyone will see this as a bad thing. Indeed, some might consider that more scrutiny around ownership and independent regulation in football are both long overdue.