AS ANDREA Agnelli departed Juventus, he spoke of the need for a new football system in Europe to prevent one league dominating and sweeping-up all the major talent in the world. He was, of course, referring to the Premier League, and in doing so, he echoed the thoughts of La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas.
Agnelli and Tebas are on opposing sides in the European Super League debate, but clearly people are worried about the power of the Premier League. Interestingly, Agnelli is an advocate of a 12-team Super League which would undoubtedly inflict upon European football the sort of damage he fears from the Premier.
Deloitte’s Football Money League for 2023 (based on 2021-22’s financials) underlines the scale of the Premier League’s hold on modern football. There are 11 Premier clubs in the top 20, with another five in the 10-team “bubbling under” section, which also includes Benfica, Ajax, Sevilla and Villareal.
The latest list also shows that Manchester City are now the most compelling force in world football; they have the strongest squad, the leading manager, global reach and powerful backing. While the nature of their ownership will always draw some criticism, they are not just building a team, they are creating a corporate body that includes a multi-club, multi-country structure.
City’s total revenues amounted to € 731 million, a 13% increase on the previous season. Only two other clubs generated over € 700 million: Real Madrid (€ 713 million) and Liverpool (€ 702 million). Liverpool, who had a spectacular season in 2021-22, saw their income go up by 27% – only Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed better growth (29%), taking their revenues to € 523 million.
Six of the top 10 are from the Premier League, with two from Spain and one apiece from France and Germany. It is fair to assume that within the elite, the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Real and Barca, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich will constantly fight for the top six. While Manchester City have jumped to top spot in the past two years, Liverpool have also risen from the lower reaches of the top 10 to the top three. PSG have become much more proficient in their commercial activity to cement their place, while Barcelona have dropped significantly and find themselves in seventh position just two years after topping the table. Bayern Munich, for all their scale, have also fallen, sixth place being their lowest in a decade.
The London trio, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, all generated healthy increases, but they hover just above mid-table. Since 2014, Chelsea have never gone higher than seventh, never lower than ninth. Tottenham have risen to become a top 10 side, while Arsenal’s slump sent them spinning from top six to below halfway in 2019 to 2021. They edged back into the top 10 in 2021-22.
Deloitte have tried to emphasise the contribution made by clubs with women’s sides, but the figures reveal the challenge of driving growth and popularity of this segment of the game. The Money League’s 20 clubs generated an average of € 2.4 million per women’s team, with Barcelona earning € 7.7 million. Deloitte highlighted that there is great disparity in the domestic leagues in Europe; in Spain, Barca’s revenues dwarfed most of the league, notably Atlético Madrid, whose income totalled just € 0.1 million. Likewise, in England, Leicester City’s € 0.4 million is but a fraction of Manchester United’s € 6 million.
Deloitte, in summing up the women’s game, called for better governance to allow all teams to be more competitive. Women’s football has become as polarised as the men’s game in a much shorter timeframe, but the report says: “The answer is not simply to follow the template of the male equivalent.”
While the concept of a European Super League may have been parked for the time being, it hasn’t gone away. It is worth noting that the dozen clubs who initially announced their involvement are all in Deloitte’s top 16. The top 20 generated € 9.2 billion in 2021-22, the 12 rebels contributed just under 70%. The potential damage is very real.
Meanwhile, the Premier League’s growth rate could introduce more clubs to the top 20 – Fulham, Aston Villa and Brighton could all find themselves knocking on the door in 12 months’ time. And of those who made the 20 this time, Newcastle United, one of the success stories of the current campaign, may make a significant jump in 2022-23, and Manchester United’s position may also strengthen.