The 20 highest earning football clubs in the world generated a record €9.3bn (£8.2bn) of combined revenue in 2018/19, an increase of 11% on the previous year, according to the 23rd edition of the Football Money League from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
The top five revenue generating clubs in this edition of the Money League are FC Barcelona (€840.8m total revenue), Real Madrid (€757.3m), Manchester United (€711.5m), Bayern Munich (€660.1m) and Paris Saint-Germain (€635.9m), who between them collectively generate more revenue than the 11 clubs ranked 10th to 20th.
Broadcast remains the largest individual revenue stream, comprising 44% of total revenue. The ability to attract substantial commercial interest is a distinguishing factor between those at the top (i.e. those traditionally competing in the UEFA Champions League on a regular basis) and at the bottom of the Money League. It is notable that while an extended period of absence from UEFA club competitions, in particular the Champions League, can significantly impact revenue generation, the top ranked clubs are less reliant on broadcast revenue than smaller clubs.
Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented, “Growth in the football industry continues to outpace that in other sectors, and the top 20 Money League clubs are on track to generate over €10 billion collectively in a single year in the near future.”
“What is notable in this edition of the Money League is the apparent continuing emergence of ‘mini-leagues within the Money League’, as the largest revenue-generating clubs continue to pull away from the rest.”
Doin’ it right
With FC Barcelona reaching the top of the Money League for the first time ever and at the same time becoming the first club to break the €800m barrier, this year’s ranking sees a Spanish one-two for the second consecutive year. However, the positions have swapped, with Real Madrid dropping to second place; the gap between first and second place is now the highest in the publication’s history (€83.5m).
FC Barcelona’s revenue increase can largely be attributed to the club’s change in approach to operations, with the decision to bring merchandising and licensing activities in-house a primary factor. Recognising the power of its brand, the club has taken greater control of its merchandising and licensing operations, rather than relying on third parties for these services. This has given the club additional control over how its products are promoted and sold and the ability to report this revenue on a gross, rather than a net, basis.
Jones adds: “Barca is a clear example of a club adapting to changing market conditions, reducing the reliance on broadcast revenue and focussing on growing revenues within its control. The club’s commercial operation generated €383.5m of revenue, which is more than the total revenue of the 12th placed club in this year’s Money League.
“With the club expecting further growth of €30m in commercial revenues and total revenue of almost €880m in 2019/20 we expect them to retain the top spot in next year’s edition. Barca is on course to achieve its stated ambition to be the first €1 billion Money League club in years to come.”
One more time
The Premier League continues to contribute the most clubs to the Money League top 20, with eight clubs making the cut in this year’s edition.
Manchester United remains in third with revenue of £627.1m (€711.5m) but currently forecasts revenue of £560-580m in 2019/20 as a result of not qualifying for this season’s Champions League, a result that would likely see the Red Devils fall to their lowest ever Money League position in next year’s edition. This could also put the club at risk of losing its position as the Premier League’s highest revenue generating club for the first time in Money League history. United’s closest domestic rivals, Manchester City and Liverpool, generated revenues of £538.2m (€610.6m) and £533m (€604.7m) respectively in 2018/19. Liverpool’s long-term ambitions of a top five Money League position in future editions are not unrealistic, particularly if the club can build on its recent on-pitch success in the Premier League and in winning the 2019 UEFA Champions League.
Tottenham Hotspur is eighth in this year’s Money League, the club’s highest ever position, and has overtaken Arsenal and Chelsea to become London’s highest revenue generating club in the Money League for the first time since 1996/97. Spurs’ revenue increased 21% to £459.3m (€521.1m), which was largely attributable to increased revenue from broadcasters and commercial sources, following a season in which the club progressed to the Champions League Final and moved into the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Arsenal slipped from ninth to 11th overall, highlighting the financial consequences of the club’s absence from the Champions League for the second consecutive season. As a result, the number of Premier League teams in the top 10 has reduced to five this year, from a record six in the previous year.
Sam Boor, senior manager in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, comments, “The impact of participation and performance in UEFA club competitions on revenue is evident in London and the North West, with the rise of Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs driven by reaching the Champions League knockout stages. The relative decline of Arsenal is a direct result of not participating in the competition for a second consecutive season, a fate that may also befall Manchester United.”
Around the world
Beyond the Premier League, clubs from the other ‘big five’ football leagues – France’s Ligue 1, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A, also feature in the top 20. The 2018/19 season saw impressive double-digit percentage growth in all revenue streams for Paris Saint-Germain as the club rose to fifth in the Money League, its highest position since 2014/15. The club generated €363.4m of commercial revenue, the second highest in Money League history, attributable to the signing of five new partners and the extension of contracts with six global brands.
Juventus regains 10th place in this year’s Money League as revenue increased 17% to €459.7m. The arrival of talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who alone has more Instagram followers than Real Madrid and FC Barcelona combined, increased Juventus’ commercial appeal. As a result, Juve saw an uplift in commercial revenue in part due to an increase in brand visibility in 2018/19. The club also increased revenue from merchandise sales as a result of signing the marquee player.
Boor added, “The composition of the top 20 remains relatively stable with only two new entrants to the Money League – Olympique Lyonnais ranked 17th and SSC Napoli ranked 20th – both clubs progressed further in UEFA club competitions and benefitted from UEFA’s new and more lucrative distribution mechanism that came into effect in 2018/19. For the first time, every club in our top 20 achieved revenues of over €200m.”
The only non-‘big five’ participants in the top 30 were Ajax in 23rd (€199.4m), Benfica 24th (€197.6m), FC Zenit Saint Petersburg 28th (€180.4m) and FC Porto 29th (€176.2m), further reflecting the significant impact that UEFA club competition participation has on revenue generation in these markets.
In the last five years the collective broadcast revenue of the top 20 clubs has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 11%, the most of any of the revenue streams. Whether the largest football leagues have now reached a plateau in broadcast rights value is debatable, however broadcast revenue generation is ultimately out of the control of an individual club. To achieve differentiated revenue growth in the future, clubs will need to focus on maximising the revenue streams that they have the most influence over. Their challenge is to do so at a time where the future landscape for football looks more unpredictable than ever.
Boor concludes, “The Champions League Round of 16 draw for the 2019/20 season, much like the Money League top 20, consists only of teams from Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues. Key stakeholders in the game will be alert to the importance of preserving unpredictability of footballing outcomes as a key driver of long-term and sustainable value.”