UK: Football Money League - The Climbers and the Sliders (Part 2 of 2)

Last Updated: 8 March 2005
Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017
This article is part of a series: Click Football Money League - The Climbers and the Sliders (Part 1 of 2) for the previous article.

Article by Robert Elstone, Austin Houlihan, Rich Parkes and Mark Roberts

Grounds for improvement

The Deloitte Football Money League is once again filled by clubs from Western Europe, but only six countries provide all 20 clubs on the list. England has the most (eight clubs), followed by Italy (five), Germany, Spain and Scotland (two each), and France (one club). What is different about the UK market which means that England and Scotland provide half of the Money League representatives?

It’s about balance…

Despite the recent realignment of the broadcast market, clubs in mainland Europe still have a much higher level of dependency on broadcasting revenue than their UK counterparts. In Italy and Spain clubs can negotiate individual deals with broadcasters and this has resulted in a flight to quality, with the largest clubs commanding phenomenal amounts in broadcasting revenue. This also explains the disappearance from our top 20 of all bar the biggest Spanish and Italian clubs. In the 2003/04 season ‘signing on bonuses’ from broadcasters to the three big Italian clubs meant that broadcasting revenues represent as much as 60% of their turnover. By contrast, UK clubs have a more balanced spread of revenues, with a greater proportion being derived from matchday and commercial sources, and some might argue that this creates a more robust business as a result.

The revenue category in which this difference is most pronounced is ‘matchday’. The average British (English & Scottish combined) club in the Money League generates approximately €48m (£31.8m) from matchday revenues, just over a third of the club’s total revenue. By comparison their mainland European counterparts in the top 20 generate, on average, €30m (£19.9m) from matchday revenues, which equates to less than 20% of their total revenue.

The amount of money that British clubs have invested in their stadia is well documented in the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance (the Premiership has spent over €1.5 billion (£1 billion) since it was formed). Clubs in other countries often have bigger stadia and bigger crowds but much lower income – why? The key is building the right stadium to maximise revenue and achieve the best returns.

…and skill…

Clubs need to ensure that they are taking into account the requirements of their spectators (or "the market"). That means two things – properly tailoring their estimation of demand by targeted research and consulting with their market, through whatever forum is the most appropriate. It should not be about simply replicating someone else’s model because "it feels right" or because the club’s President or Chairman wants to build some sort of monument to his reign.

Football clubs, like hotels and airlines, are selling perishable assets. If a plane takes off with a seat unsold, it can never be sold. The same goes for a football club with empty seats. Similarly, a segment of the market will pay a premium for extra comfort, convenience and catering that costs less to provide than people are willing to pay. Yield management, segmentation techniques and packaged ticket offers (with catering and car parking for instance) are all valuable improvements clubs can make. This does not require great capital investment – but it does require some thought, and research. We have advised a number of clubs on improving operational performance in existing stadia through our methodologies that utilise market-based and statistical techniques.

We believe there are further opportunities available for all clubs to improve their returns from the stadium and increase their level of matchday income. In some cases these gains could be very dramatic in terms of increasing from the base levels discussed below.

…and delivery

Looking at individual clubs, Manchester United generate the highest matchday revenue, earning €92.4m (£61.2m) from this source – from average attendances at Old Trafford of 67,500. This is almost 50% higher than the best performing Continental European club in this area – Real Madrid who earned €62.0m (£41.1m), from a similar level of average attendance to Manchester United – see Table 1. In fact English and Scottish clubs occupy seven of the top ten places in terms of absolute levels of matchday income.

The club with the lowest matchday income of the 20 – Juventus (€17.6m (£11.7m) – is actually placed fifth overall in the Money League. This is largely due to two factors – the amount of their broadcasting income – €130.1m (£86.2m) the second highest of all 20 clubs – and their commercial income – €67.3m (£44.5m), the fourth highest in the Money League. Their matchday income represents only 8% of their total and is less than a fifth of the matchday income being achieved by Manchester United. This is a worrying imbalance and shows the critical importance to Juventus of making progress with the business aspects of its stadium redevelopment (and also perhaps of its ‘marketing to and commercialisation of its fanbase’).

When looking at the clubs’ home attendances – a key performance indicator – the below par performance of Juventus in matchday income terms is partly explained by the fact that, at 28,900, it has the lowest average attendance (in all compettions) of all 20 clubs in this year’s Money League. This is despite having one of the larger stadium capacities. Juventus experience a very wide "spread" of attendance levels between their best and worst attended matches, which results in a lower overall average.

The level of matchday income per spectator being achieved by the clubs in the Money League varies widely – see Chart 2 – Lazio average just €462 (£306) per spectator (or €18 per person per match). 

Compare these numbers to those being achieved by the clubs at the other end of the scale. Whilst Manchester United hold the number one spot in terms of overall matchday income, Chelsea are demonstrating an ability to generate the highest matchday income per spectator. 

Chelsea’s matchday income per spectator – €2,041 (£1,351) per spectator per annum or €73 (£48) per spectator per game – is almost 50% higher than the second and third placed clubs in this category – Manchester United (€1,370 (£907) or €55 (£36) per spectator), and Arsenal (€1,394 (£923) or €48 (£32) per spectator), with Newcastle United the only other top 20 club which is able to break the €40 (£26) per spectator barrier.

Indeed, big crowds do not guarantee big revenues. Borussia Dortmund do not make this year’s Money League, despite having the highest average domestic league attendance level in Europe (79,600).

UK clubs have consistently managed, through focused investment and targeted marketing, to achieve enhanced returns from their stadium asset which has helped them to achieve a more balanced spread of revenues. Although ‘ownership’ may be an issue for some mainland European clubs in terms of developing stadia, this does not preclude the employment of focused customer relationship management techniques to better understand their market. Though in general UK clubs perform better, numerous opportunities exist for many clubs to enhance matchday and general business revenues, by further developing their stadia or trying to use their existing asset more effectively.
Mark Roberts
Senior Sports Business Consultant

UEFA Champions League – the icing or the cake?

February 2005 sees the resumption of the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s highest profile football club competition. The competition has become an integral part of the European club season – but how significant is it financially?

A European success story

The Champions League was created by reform of the European Champion’s Cup in 1992/93 and, over the last decade, has developed from a 32 team competition involving one representative from each country (the previous season’s domestic league champions), to one which involves a total of 74 entrants (of which 32 progress to the ‘lucrative Group stage’ – to use a regular journalistic epithet), with up to four representatives per country. The group stage guarantees participants a minimum number of matches, and broadcasters and commercial partners a more defined product. By any measure the competition has been a phenomenal success.

The Money League is dominated by clubs which take part in the Champions League. Of the 20 clubs, 12 participated in the Champions League group stage during 2003/04, of which 7 progressed to the knockout stages. 12 of these 20 clubs also participated in the competition in 2004/05, with 10 having progressed beyond the group stage. A pointer to the composition of next year’s Money League?

UEFA markets broadcasting and sponsorship revenues (from the Group stage of the competition onwards) via the TEAM sports marketing agency, and revenues have increased strongly since the competition was rebranded. In revenue terms the Champions League is one of the most valuable commercial properties in club football (along with the top few domestic leagues). Despite an overall reduction in values in 2003/04 (as a result of changing market conditions and a restructuring of the tournament format), UEFA generated €581m (£385m) in broadcast and sponsorship revenues. The vast majority related to broadcasting revenues. Some of this revenue is distributed to UEFA’s member national associations as solidarity payments. This finances many of UEFA’s development activities – thus providing substantial benefit to the game’s grassroots, particularly in less wealthy nations.

Dividing the spoils

The majority of Champions League broadcast and sponsorship revenue is, however, distributed to the 32 clubs which participate from the group stage onwards themselves – some €414m (£274m) in 2003/04. The distribution formula comprises two elements. 50% of this pool of revenue is distributed according to on field performance in that season’s Champions League and 50% according to the relative value of the broadcast market in each country. Each country then divides that (‘broadcast’ share) according to their participant clubs’ on-field performance. The amounts received by clubs in 2003/04 ranged from the €4.2m (£2.8m) received by Partizan Belgrade (who were eliminated at the group stage) to €28.9m (£19.1m) received by semi-finalists Chelsea. English clubs received the largest revenues, partly because of the relative size of the UK broadcast deal compared to other countries, but also due to strong on-pitch performances.

On top of this centrally generated revenue, clubs generate matchday, sponsorship and other commercial revenues themselves and, for a successful club in a big market, this can amount to a large pot of revenue. We estimate that the 12 Money League clubs who participated in the 2003/04 competition (see Table 2 plus Bayern Munich) collectively earned almost €300m (£200m) from their respective Champions League campaigns, which equates to 14% of the clubs’ turnover. This excludes the extra ‘local’ sponsorship and commercial successes which flow with the kudos of Champions League status. Chelsea generated the biggest estimated Champions League revenue, €44m (£29.1m), one fifth of their total 2003/04 revenue. While, at one time, an appearance on the European stage was seen as being a bonus – a reward for a successful domestic season – many clubs now view Champions League qualification as the minimum acceptable level of on pitch success – the cake itself rather than the icing upon it.

Click here to view Table 2:Contribution of UEFA Champions League ('UCL') estimated revenue to overall club revenues

In it to win it

Some clubs may now commit to a level of costs (principally in terms of player salaries) necessary to achieve Champions League football in the hope – and expectation – of achieving the revenues. But such plans can come unstuck and Champions League qualification cannot be assumed. Borussia Dortmund and Valencia both failed to qualify for the Champions League in 2003/04 – and they missed out on a top 20 spot in this year’s Money League. Some clubs are beginning to ‘insure’ themselves against such occurrences by developing performance related pay for players (with bonuses for qualification, rather than guaranteed salaries) – this is a welcome development, and one of which at Deloitte we would like to see much more.

While the existence of Champions League football is an important element of revenue for positions in the Money League, progress in the competition does not guarantee a place in the list. The strength of a club’s domestic market – and the club’s relative position in it – are also important factors, as illustrated by the fact that three of the four Champions League semi finalists in 2004 (Deportivo La Coruña, AS Monaco and FC Porto) including both finalists, are not part of this year’s top 20. The competition winners Porto received a total of €19.6m (£13m) in UEFA revenues, but of this €17.7m (£11.7m) comprised performance bonuses and only €1.9m (£1.3m) was from the ‘broadcast pod’, due to the relatively small Portuguese broadcast market (in European terms). Nor is the Champions League the only avenue to move up the Money League – Barcelona increased revenue in 2003/04 by €46m (£30.5m) – 37% – and moved from thirteenth to seventh despite not being in the competition at all. Also Tottenham Hotspur have been ever present in our top 20 but have never appeared in the Champions League.

Clues to the 2004/05 Deloitte Football Money League? For the big clubs in the big markets progress to the final stages of the competition delivers a big boost to revenues – the icing on the cake, as it were. The second round of this season’s Champions League draw has paired eight of our top nine Money League sides with each other – Real Madrid v Juventus, Manchester United v AC Milan, Chelsea v Barcelona and Bayern Munich v Arsenal, with the winners of these ties going forward to the quarter finals. Given the relative revenues of these clubs in 2003/04, the results of these matches may have a big influence on the clubs’ potential positions in the Money League next year.
Rich Parkes
Sports Business Consultant

It’s all about Partnership

Twenty years ago matchday revenues were the key to football club incomes. Ten years ago, the Pay-TV platforms kick-started media revenues. Now, the focus turns to the third segment of a football club’s revenue – commercial income.

Progressive football clubs have long been talking about ‘partnership’ as an underlying business principle. Football sales patter is littered with references to mutuality and working together – ‘we don’t just stick your logo on a piece of wood at the side of the pitch, we don’t just take the money and run; honest.’ But, of course, actions speak louder than words. In many cases the implementation of a true partnership approach still lags someway behind the rhetoric. Partnership – in its widest sense – is a philosophy which will secure future values (and not just financially) in the Game.

Deloitte has highlighted football’s most important partnership for many years. A club’s relationship with its fans has to be a true partnership – a ‘give and take’, sporting matrimony – transparent, honest and for life. In this section, we reflect on why a partnership philosophy is so important to securing other commercial revenues.

Commercial revenue covers a wide range of sources – sometimes due to inconsistent income classifications – but its principal components are retail and sponsorship. In football terms, both areas are relatively new to clubs, having emerged over the past 15 years or so into a sport well over a century old, and both can present complex challenges, particularly for clubs looking to exploit such opportunities in emerging international markets.

Growth potential

Retail and sponsorship revenues may well represent the greatest potential future revenue growth for many clubs (it is notable that the top six Money League clubs each generate over €50m (£33m) in commercial revenues – see Chart 3) due to ‘limits’ on matchday and broadcast income sources.

Matchday revenues have historically been football’s lifeblood and the Grounds for improvement section shows there is still a substantial opportunity for some clubs in that area. Broadcast revenues are an infrequent (and, for the individual club, often a third-party and, hence, uncontrollable) transaction. Only at clubs with their own broadcast channels does broadcasting itself necessitate a major commercial operation requiring day to day attention. Sponsorship and retail revenues are therefore key areas where properly focused clubs can steal a march on their competitors.

 On average, commercial revenue currently accounts for 31% of the total income of the 20 Money League clubs, but commercial revenues’ share of the total at each club ranges from just over 20% at Lazio – €21.7m (£14.3m) to almost 63% at Bayern Munich – €105.2m (£69.6m). For many clubs commercial revenue is an evolving business, and perhaps this still shows in some clubs’ figures?


On the whole, football retail in Europe remains the preserve of the British fan – and English and Scottish clubs out-perform their overseas rivals. However, profitable growth, in the domestic market, is becoming increasingly difficult. The domestic sports retail market is mature and business is highly competitive. The future of retail for our footballing elite, with fans around the world, is likely to be international and partnership-driven. Clubs need to select, then work in partnership with, progressive sports brands. ‘Piggybacking’ their brand equity, and most importantly, capitalising on the purchasing and (global) distribution power to put the right products, in front of the right people, in the right territories, at the right time and for the right price – will bring success. This is a tough challenge for the more independently minded football club.

Commercial partnerships

In just the same way as the major sports brands have ‘cherry-picked’ the top three or four clubs in each of the major European leagues, the major sponsors have started to do the same. We expect to see more and more of this as the relatively small family of footballfriendly global brands extend tournament or single territory activities across other clubs, taking ownership of the sport and rolling out proven marketing strategies. Joining football’s elite family brings sponsors cost-effective visibility and consumer credibility around the globe. Beyond this, for the sponsor or corporate partner football partnerships can shift brand perception, likelihood to buy and ultimately brand loyalty but only with the support of proactive clubs.

At the ‘top end’, big clubs can be choosy about the company they keep. The major brewers, mobile communications businesses and financial services providers, for example, covet the global reach and consumer loyalty that clubs in the Money League can deliver. Outside the elite clubs, supply – the number of available club commercial properties – significantly exceeds demand (from the bigger corporates) and the resulting price-driven competition is forcing their sponsorship values down. On the other hand, the Money League is a small and exclusive group and there is only a restricted amount of partner ‘space’ available. Meaningful, ‘clean’ branding opportunities are limited, and, there are only so many endorsed products the fans will buy. On the other hand, if there is too much activity, then there is a real danger of ‘affinity overload’ or clutter as official status and club logos appear on more and more products. With strong demand (at least for the proactive, well-managed, commercially minded clubs) and a shortage of supply (and space), sponsorship values for those on the Money League should increase substantially if a proper (and discerning) partnership approach is taken.

However, clubs are now realising that partner selection is not just about the biggest guaranteed cheque. As important as the upfront cash should be the potential to develop collaborative business opportunities and, especially in non-local territories, the ability to benefit from the partner’s intrinsic marketing and operational acumen. The same principles of reach, buying and distribution power that Nike and adidas bring to the table are also true of Budweiser, Siemens, T-Mobile and Mastercard. Future market development will come from long-term alliances with these types of partners.

But how do the best clubs develop and execute an effective commercial strategy? We try to set out some key principles below:

  • The enduring challenge remains to grow (and then retain) a large, loyal and addressable fan base. A large fan base sustains a high volume, but passive dialogue; but, offering an enfranchised and addressable fan base affords a much more proactive and lucrative relationship.
  • Segment by market potential – identify business potential by territory or market and target the most attractive markets.
  • Consult with fans in priority markets to determine the products and services they want.
  • Consider and approach reputable, global providers of those offerings.
  • Maximise commercial values but also consider wider business benefits – in particular, harness local partner resource to develop and sustain fan relationships in priority markets.

The market has changed. Clubs and brands are both now saying …"in our deal with ‘x’ we were really disappointed, there was so much we wanted to do with them but they did not support the partnership". Ultimately, future success will come from new fans, in new markets buying more and more club and partner product. A passive approach to marketing for either category of product is unlikely to reap maximum rewards. Similarly, restricting partner relationships to a single product or service provider is equally limiting. The message is clear to clubs and their partner brands – get the most out of your partnerships.  
Robert Elstone

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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This article is part of a series: Click Football Money League - The Climbers and the Sliders (Part 1 of 2) for the previous article.
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