What Deloitte’s Football Money League Report Tells Us

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To football fans 1997 must seem like a lifetime ago. The mercurial Eric Cantona would unexpectedly announce his retirement from the sport, while the Brazilian legend Ronaldo would shatter the world transfer record fee, moving from Barcelona to Inter Milan for a then whopping £19.5 million. It was also the first year that Deloitte, the financial services giant, would publish its ‘Football Money League’ report detailing which clubs earned the most money in the last season.

The report has gone on to become a bellwether of how the sport is performing financially and also how individual leagues are competing against rivals. In 1997, Manchester United topped the list, earning £87.9 million in the previous season, trailed by Real Madrid, who generated £72.2 million and in third spot was Bayern Munich with £66.2 million.

Fast forward to 2017 and Deloitte published the twentieth edition of its respected report this month, which you can view here. Manchester United were once more top of the pile, generating a new record of£515.3 million in the last season and hey had finally overtaken Real Madrid who had held top spot for 11 years running. The contrast 20 years on is simply incredible and serves to highlight just how much money is now swirling in the game. Ronaldo’s fee of nearly £20 million seems quite quaint (not to mention like a bargain) now, with players such as United’s Morgan Schneiderlin (£20 million to Everton) going for more than Ronaldo.

A huge variety of factors have of course helped clubs in the major European leagues to grow their revenues beyond their wildest dreams. TV money is the obvious enabler, making football much more like the NFL (with players’ pay skyrocketing), as well as new markets opening up, like Asia for the English Premier League.

Despite these obvious factors the report highlights some very interesting trends

Takeaways From The Report

  1. Man Utd No.1 – While United’s previous season was pretty horrible, despite very poor on the field performances, they’ve become once more the economic powerhouse of the game. The key drivers of their record £515 million revenue were (i) match day and (ii) commercial revenue.

    1. Focusing on match day revenue, United made between £4-5 million over the course of the season for their homes games, better than any other club in Deloitte’s list.
    2. Meanwhile commercially they generated a staggering £272 million, no doubt aided by their huge roster of sponsors for official partners from everything to wine to paint partners.
  2. Bayern’s Performance – Bayern finished fourth in this season’s report with a 25% increase in revenue. The key thing to point out is that the Bavarian club was only a few steps behind United in their commercial revenue, generating £256 million. This put them in second place commercial, but they were let down by TV revenue amounting to £110 million compared to Utd’s £140 million. Bayern’s commercial team deserve a pat on the back.
  3. Watch Out For Those Foxes –  Last season on and off the field for Leicester City was a huge success. Their surprise Premier League championship win catapulted them into the top twenty and boosted their revenue to £128 million, which is almost five times as much as the amount they generated two years previously. With increased TV revenue and also their participation in this year’s Champions League, they’ll likely be in the top twenty next year too.