‘Show Me The Money’ – How the top football club’s revenues add up

It seems that in the modern game, money is everything. This fact is noticeable as the firing of managers has become more and more commonplace. Bosses, hungry to see their money turned into success, do not have the patience to wait for a side to develop. We saw this earlier in the season as Sam Allardyce was fired by the new management at Blackburn just days after their take over.

At the other end of the spectrum, we see players with increasing power over their clubs and managers. This season there have been controversial transfer requests by both Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney. Both sagas were resolved with an increased contract being agreed and it seems that players these days kick up a fuss and say they will leave a club unless they get paid extraordinary amounts of money that they feel they deserve.

Thirdly, we have seen the face of the Premiership change in the last ten years thanks to ‘Sugar Daddy’ Chairmen, who come to England with the ambition of turning a club into the ‘biggest’ in Europe. All the while spending millions of pounds and being seemingly unperturbed by the debts they create.

I might draw a bleak picture, but on the positive, football is at the dawn of a new era. In 2013, FIFA will implement the financial fair play rules. This will result in clubs only being able to spend what they make from football. It will also put considerable pressure on clubs who continually run at a loss to become self-sufficient. And prevent Chairmen spending their own money on wages and transfer fees.

There has been an on-going debate in the history of football about what makes a club ‘bigger’ than another. Some feel it is trophies, other feel it is supporters. But we now live in a world where money, it could be argued, dictates the size of a club. It is assumed that the financial fair play rules will allow the clubs who make the most money through football to become more successful and penalise those who rely on a financier for investment. Therefore, football may once again begin to see the rise of the ‘biggest’ clubs, who create the most revenue and not just the richest who spend the most.

After 2012, when clubs can only spend what they earn, each revenue stream will become even more important to a club. There are currently three main revenue streams through football; match-day income, commercial deals and broadcasting deals.

My investigation into the finances of modern football will see the analysis of the three aspects of each club’s revenue. I will be going through statistics published over the last 8 years in ‘The Deloitte European Football Money League’ and see what changes have occurred and why. It is thanks to the work of Deloitte that I have been able to do this and all facts and figures concerning revenue come from their reports. I am going to begin by looking at the match-day revenues of the top clubs in Europe.

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Match-Day Revenue of Premier League clubs

Match-day revenue makes up a third of most team’s total revenue. One would assume that the most important factor of match-day revenue is the size of an average attendance. If a club sells more tickets, it makes more money. But things in European football are not as straightforward as that.

Interestingly enough, the most supported League in Europe for the last 10 years has been the German Bundesliga.

Competition Average Attendance (2008-09)
Bundesliga (GER) 42,565
Premier League (ENG) 35,600
La Liga (SPN) 29,124
Serie A (ITA) 25,304
Championship (ENG) 17,891

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It is apparent that in German domestic football average attendances are very high. Firstly, there are a lot of huge grounds; 11 German clubs have an average attendance of over 40,000. The Premier League, on the other hand, has only 6, (Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea). One reason for this is that the 2006 World Cup, hosted by Germany, meant that many German clubs benefited from stadium redevelopments while England have not hosted a major European tournament since Euro 1996.

Yet, despite having the highest average attendances, German clubs did not make the most money through match-day revenue in 2010.

2010 Match-day £m/home game Average £/attendee
(pos.) revenue (£m) attendance
1 R. Madrid 128.1 74,894
2 Man United 122.4 3.6 74,304 48
3 Arsenal 114.7 3.5 59,765 59
4 Barcelona 97.8 77,913
5 Chelsea 82.1 2.4 41,422 58
6 Bayern Mun. 66.7 2.7 68,853 25
7 Liverpool 52.4 1.6 42,863 37
8 Hamburger 49.3 1.9 55,240 29
9 Tottenham 44.9 1.5 36,240 41

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The German clubs’ lack of dominance is interesting. This is because the average money spent by a person per game (£/attendee) in Germany is dramatically lower than in England. Cheaper tickets allow German clubs to achieve larger crowds, but reduce their match-day revenue.

We, in England, are paying a lot more to watch a game of top flight football than our equivalent in Germany. In 2010, Manchester United earned 25% more each home game than Bayern Munich despite having a similar average attendance. It costs a person, on average, £23 more to go to Old Trafford than the Allianz Arena in Munich. This is why Manchester United achieved a total match-day revenue of £55.7m more than Bayern Munich in 2010 despite averaging only 5,451 more people each home game.

It is also important to notice that the teams whose revenues are highest have new grounds. English clubs make more money than those in Germany not just because of ticket prices but also because of corporate spending. But those with the largest corporate facilities make the most (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal).

Obviously the amount made through corporate hospitality has increased the £/attendee figure. Therefore this number is not directly reflective of ticket prices. But ticket prices in the last 5 years have clearly risen, and will continue to do so as clubs strive to earn more money from home games.

However, due to the £/attendee of supporters in England, clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham still make more on match-days than German sides Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04 and Hamburg. These teams all have stadiums capable of holding more people and average attendances of 73,097, 61,361 and 54,744 respectively. But still do not make as much as the top English clubs.

Importantly, Liverpool and Tottenham may feature in the top 10, but make less than half the money of the highest ranking teams. These two clubs are able to earn more than German clubs who have big crowds but not able to compete with the biggest clubs from Spain and England because they cannot house as much corporate hospitality. This is because their grounds were built before such emphasis was given to this stream of income.

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The statistics show that Anfield and White Hart Lane have reduced Liverpool’s and Tottenham’s capability for financial growth in the last 6/7 years. But neither has seen its growth stunted as much as Chelsea.

2003/4 Match-day £m/home game Average £/attendee
(pos.) revenue (£m) attendance
1 Man United 92.4 2.43 67,500 36
2 Chelsea 80.9 1.91 39,700 48
3 R. Madrid 62 1.49 67,600 22
4 Barca 57.8 1.30 62,000 21
…7 Arsenal 51 1.17 36,600 32
8 Liverpool 39.9 1.00 41,800 24
…11 Tottenham 29.9 0.78 34,100 23

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In the 2003/4 season, Chelsea made the second most amount of money out of any side in Europe on match-days. However, they now rank 5th and make less than 1% more than they did 6 years ago. While Real Madrid has seen its match-day revenue increase by almost £65m (95%), and Manchester United £30m, Chelsea’s has grown by just £2m. So Chelsea used to earn £18m more than Real Madrid a year in match-day revenue, now they earn £46m less.

This is partly because Stamford Bridge can only hold 41,841 people. Furthermore, Chelsea had already maxed out their earning potential 5 years ago and have been unable to grow since. This has caused them to dramatically fall behind other major European teams, in terms of revenue made on match-days.

In 2003/4 their £/attendee was significantly higher than any other side in Europe. This is because Chelsea led the way in improving its corporate facilities at Stamford Bridge. Corporate hospitality saw attendees paying more to watch a game. This, in turn, led to a higher average £/attendee and a higher revenue. However, by 2010 other sides have caught up, and overtaken Chelsea. Since Chelsea had already maximised its earning potential in this region, it has not improved it since 2002, and is now lagging behind.

On the other hand, reasons for such extensive growth of other clubs are due to development of the corporate and entertaining facilities, as well as increases in capacity and average attendance. For example, from 2001-2005, the Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid underwent massive development. While the capacity may have only been increased by 5,000 seats, behind the scenes there was a huge overhaul. New VIP and corporate facilities were installed as well as modern panoramic escalators, restaurants and bars. The effect of such implementations is that average match-day spending has more than doubled.

In England, Liverpool and Tottenham have been able to increase their revenue slightly by increasing the amount people spend on match-days. But this has been achieved through inflation of ticket prices and every other team has done the same. Both clubs have older grounds and have not been able to significantly increase their non-ticket profits on match-days. That is why they have fallen behind in recent years years.

In the last 6/7 years, Liverpool’s growth of match-day revenue is only is only c.25%. On the other hand, Arsenal have moved stadium allowing a huge increase in average attendance and the amount of corporate hospitality the stadium can host. They now make more than 100% more each match-day than they did 5 years ago. With the top clubs playing as many as 30 home matches a season this is a hugely significant amount of money.

These figures show that the bigger clubs in Europe cannot increase their match-day earnings unless they increase their stadium sizes and dedicate more space to corporate facilities. The older stadiums just don’t have this space either for seats or corporate hospitality. Since most successful clubs already sell out their stadiums every game, more than ever, a modern stadium is vital to a club looking to maximise earning potential. It is clear that the only way Tottenham, Chelsea or Liverpool are going to reduce the gap in match-day revenue between themselves and Manchester United and Arsenal is by moving to a larger, more modern stadium. On the other hand, it is a positive thing for English football that the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United can compete with any side in Europe in terms of match-day revenue.