UK: Deloitte Annual Review Of Football Finance 2015

Last Updated: 8 July 2015
Article by Dan Jones, Adam Bull, Alex Bosshardt, Matthew Green, Chris Hanson, James Savage, Chris Stenson and Alexander Thorpe

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

Our first football finance report was produced in June 1992, a couple of months ahead of the start of the inaugural Premier League season. For more than 20 years we have documented clubs' business and commercial performance, striving to provide the most comprehensive picture possible of English professional football's finances, set within the context of the regulatory environment and the wider European game.

The Sports Business Group at Deloitte provides an in-depth analysis of football's finances in its 52 page full report, which includes:

Europe's premier leagues

Scale of the overall European football market; Comprehensive data and analysis of trends for clubs in the 'big five' leagues including revenue breakdowns, wage costs, operating results, and match attendances; Factors impacting on clubs' future revenues; Key financial indicators for six more European leagues.

Industry insights

Our perspectives on six topics facing football, including the reasons for continued interest from investors in English football clubs, the challenge of the Europa League, the importance of measuring player academy success, the development of the Indian Super League, the continued strength of premium sports rights and the increased involvement of Middle Eastern investment in football.


The full report, incorporating a pull-out Databook, includes over 8,000 data items, prepared on the basis of our unique and long-established methodologies.

The following sections of the full report include comprehensive data and analysis of the business drivers and financial trends for clubs in the top four divisions of English football, with a particular focus on Premier League and Championship clubs. The analysis covers through to the end of the 2013/14 season and we also include some pointers to future financial results.

Revenue and profitability

Analysis of matchday, broadcasting and commercial revenue streams; Revenue projections to 2016/17; The financial impact of participation in UEFA club competitions, promotion and relegation; Operating results and pre-tax profits and losses; Average attendances and stadium utilisation in the Premier League and Football League.

Wages and transfers

Analysis of clubs' total wage costs; The relationship between revenue growth and wage costs; Club-by-club analysis of wage costs including rankings, comparison to on-pitch performance, and wages to revenue ratios; Estimated total player wages; Cost control regulatory developments; Player transfer spending; Transfer flows between the top four divisions and to agents.

Club financing and investment

Analysis of the sources of net debt financing, profiling the aggregate net debt position of Premier League and Championship clubs, as well as an analysis of the top ten clubs; Capital investment by clubs in the top four English divisions over the five years to 2013/14, with a focus on the clubs with the highest levels of investment in 2013/14.


Welcome to the 24th edition of the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance, compiling our analysis and commentary on the recent financial developments within and prospects for the world's most popular sport.

New Power Generation

We have chronicled the development of the business of football in England and across Europe for over twenty years. In that time we have seen two consistent trends run in tandem; first, spectacular and relentless revenue growth across Europe's biggest clubs and leagues and second, what we termed "football's biggest challenge" as far back as 1995, an even more rapid increase in player costs. In recent years we've observed and welcomed the development, implementation and subsequent effects of cost control regulations within the game.

We suggested last year that Financial Fair Play could be the most significant development in the football business since the Bosman ruling. Early signs are that this is the case. Indeed the change in club profitability in 2013/14 was more profound than anything we could have forecast. This year's edition may mark a turning point in football finance and the dawn of a new age of significant profitability for Premier League clubs.

England's top division has passed the £3 billion revenue mark for the first time and widened the gap to its nearest rival, the Bundesliga, to over £1 billion. The Premier League now generates more revenue than La Liga and Serie A combined.

The Premier League's virtuous circle of compelling content attracting ever increasing broadcast revenues, which in turn attracts some of the best coaches and playing talent from around the world, complemented by capacity attendances at its stadia is a familiar one to readers of this publication.

Previously, the biggest failing in a business sense of England's top flight was its failure to convert its brand and market leadership into profits. This year changes that, with the Premier League reporting its first pre-tax profit since 1999. This record breaking profitability may move clubs from being seen as exciting and enticing trophy assets to being recognised as businesses capable of delivering consistent profits.

From a costs perspective, UEFA's Financial Fair Play break-even requirement continues to make an impact. In the past two seasons only 31% of revenue growth across Europe's 'big five' leagues has been spent on wages, in the two years preceding that it was 61%.

The path to profit for the Premier League has not been one solely of regulatory led cost control; these factors have coincided with substantial revenue increases across the league. All 20 Premier League clubs are now ranked in the top 40 globally in terms of revenue, with even the smallest still earning enough to rank in the top six of any of the other 'big five' European leagues. This continues to be underpinned by the strength of the Premier League's broadcast deals, driving a 48% uplift in the combined broadcast revenues of Premier League clubs in 2013/14.

Sign of the Times

The scale of the financial superiority of the Premier League is clear and explored in greater detail in Europe's premier leagues and Revenue and profitability. However, such is the size of the Premier League's financial lead, that it is important to consider what this means for the wider football industry, including other major European leagues as well as the rest of the English football pyramid.

On a continental level, it is difficult to see any of the other 'big five' European leagues closing the gap to the Premier League in the near term, let alone catching up with them.

Unsurprisingly, the growth of England has caused European peers to cast their eyes across the Channel to see how this financial success has been achieved. There is clear evidence emerging in some leagues of change in areas that have traditionally hindered the sort of league wide growth English clubs have benefited from. For example, Spain's La Liga is closer than ever to moving to the collective selling of broadcast rights, intended to deliver more equal and increased revenues across the league. Meanwhile in Italy, Juventus continue to demonstrate the benefits that could be achieved for Serie A clubs through investment in, and improvement of, clubs' matchday facilities. More recently in Germany, leading football figures have commented on their desire to see more competition in, and hence more revenue from, the broadcast market.

Nonetheless, while there are undoubtedly areas of potential further growth for Europe's top leagues, this year's report reconfirms that the Premier League has cemented its place as the "world's favourite league." The Premier League and its clubs have gained first mover advantage in becoming the leading imported league in a number of key foreign markets, leaving other leagues with the difficult task of not only competing against the Premier League but also domestic football properties as well as the UEFA Champions League for the hearts and minds of broadcasters, sponsors and fans alike.

Diamonds and Pearls

The most obvious threat for these leagues from England's increased wealth is in the global arms race for playing talent. With relatively few barriers to movement for players, particularly within Europe, England's increased means clearly gives Premier League clubs a greater purchasing power than ever before.

There are of course very notable exceptions to this broad picture of market leadership for England; while the general observation that Premier League clubs have greater financial firepower than ever compared with their continental peers is true, it is still the case that after both the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons the PFA Player of the Year ultimately left the Premier League for La Liga. Therefore the battles for the greatest talents will still rage amongst Europe's elite clubs, but the Premier League's resources will continue to allow it to have an unmatched level of strength in depth, as demonstrated by the fact it provided more players than any other league for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as we expect it will again at both Euro 2016 and the next World Cup.

Despite this, Europe's other leagues can boast of beating the Premier League's finest where it really matters. While the Premier League appears in rude financial health relative to its European peers, this has not been reflected by performances in Europe on the pitch by its clubs. 2014/15 is the third consecutive season in which no Premier League team has featured in the UEFA Champions League final. Similarly the competition where the Premier League's purchasing power should arguably be of greatest advantage, the Europa League, has only had one winner and two other English finalists in the last ten years.

Under the Cherry Moon

While the emergence of the Premier League clubs into profit is of both continental, and even global significance, this year's numbers again bring into sharp focus the impact the league has domestically. The size of the Premier League prize grows ever greater and this year again demonstrates that the desire to reach the league, by those clubs in the Championship has never been greater. While we saw all bar one of the Premier League clubs achieving operating profits, only three Championship clubs were able to achieve this. With wage costs still exceeding revenues across the division as a whole, only increases in Premier League parachute payments were able to stop the league from having a truly disastrous financial picture. For all the dreams that have been turned to reality at Bournemouth, The Football League is right to be trying to prevent dreams turning to nightmares at other clubs through overspending.

The Beautiful Experience

We have previously remarked that "despite the general lack of profitability, investors continue to be attracted to European football clubs". The transformation of Premier League club profitability reported here will fuel even greater global investor interest in Premier League clubs. With significant future revenue growth already secured through the recently agreed domestic broadcast rights deals from 2016/17 to 2018/19, as well as the success of cost control regulations, the risks associated with investment in Premier League clubs seem to be diminishing. However, as other investors have found to their cost, there are no guarantees. It is a fact that 15% of Premier League clubs will be relegated each year and while parachute payments ensure the fall should not be fatal there is no guarantee of a rapid return to the riches of the Premier League.

For You

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues, Henry Wong and all those from across the football community who have helped us compile this year's report.

We hope you enjoy this edition.

To read this article in full, please click here.

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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