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

Same gang, different seats at the table

MANCHESTER United’s recent malaise on the pitch has had an impact on the club’s position in football’s financial pecking order, with Real Madrid and Barcelona overtaking them to claim the top two places in Deloitte’s Football Money League for 2019.

United slip to third after a second successive year in which the club’s revenues declined. They are hardly in poor street, however, as revenues totalled € 666 million and the club also has long-term lucrative deals with Adidas and Chevrolet. But as well as seeing the La Liga giants leapfrog them, the differential between United and City in Manchester appears to be closing.

Real Madrid became the first club worldwide to break the € 700 million barrier, earning total revenues of € 750.9 million. Their domestic rivals Barcelona will surely be reaching that landmark soon as revenues for 2017-18 totalled € 690.4 million.

Real’s bank balance was swelled by another successful season on the pitch, but they also generated the highest revenues from commercial activity (€ 356.2 million) and TV (€ 251.3 – jointly with Liverpool). They were also the second highest in matchday income (€ 143.4 million) after Barcelona.

Deloitte’s numbers show the rich just keep getting richer – the combined revenues of the top 20 amounted to a record € 8.3 billion, an increase of € 400 million and almost a billion higher than 2015-16. Once again, the big five leagues dominate, with nine of the top 20 clubs from the Premier League. For the first time since Deloitte started their analysis of football’s finances, Italian clubs are absent from the top 10. Juventus dropped to 11th, to be replaced by Tottenham Hotspur.

The importance of broadcasting money is highlighted by the revenue mix. Across the study, TV money accounts for 43% of revenues, while commercial activity contributes 40% and matchday just 17%. The Premier League is especially dependent on broadcasting – Tottenham (53%), Liverpool (49%) and Arsenal (47%) all have very high reliance on cash from TV, while Manchester United, with a broader, more diverse revenue mix, is much lower (35%). Clubs like Real Madrid (34%), Barcelona (32%) and Bayern Munich (28%), have lower percentages, largely because of their very high attendances. Just 24% of Paris Saint-Germain’s revenues, due to some lucrative commercial transactions, come from broadcasting.

From a matchday perspective, just six clubs generated more than € 100 million in revenues, Others, such as Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, trail behind the big guns. Manchester City’s income from games totalled only € 63.9 million, which is almost half the amount earned by neighbours United.

However, the gap between United and City is tightening across all revenue streams. In 2016, United generated € 164 million more than City, but this gulf has narrowed to € 98 million. United’s matchday income aside, the club’s commercial prowess is significantly greater than City’s, although the current era of success at the Etihad Stadium will surely continue to work away at the difference. Even more notable is the parity developing in north London, where Arsenal’s financial advantages have slowly been eroded by stagnation in the latter Wenger years and the rise of Tottenham’s young team. This, of course, will also be affected by the opening of Tottenham’s new stadium.

The Deloitte Football Money League findings confirm that within the top 20 clubs there are huge imbalances. Consider that Real Madrid’s income totals € 750.9 million while 20thplaced West Ham generated € 197.9 million. With the top eight all earning more than half a billion in revenues, a European Super League, in financial terms, has already been created.

Photo PA