UEFA reports finds club revenue at €20.1bn, but the poor aren’t getting richer

money flying

January 18 – Europe’s 710 top-division clubs earned a record €20.11 billion in revenues between them in the 2017 financial year although almost half of that amount was accrued by just 30 of them, according to UEFA’s annual Club Licensing Benchmarking report.

Not surprisingly the report laid bare how English Premier League clubs continued to pull in more than the rest of Europe.

The report showed England’s 20 Premier League sides have the biggest revenue and the highest wage bills. In 2017, Premier League clubs’ aggregate revenue amounted to €5.3 billion, almost double that of La Liga and the Bundesliga and considerably more than Serie A and Ligue 1 amongst the so-called ‘big five’.

Altogether, 13 English teams feature in the 30 wealthiest clubs across Europe, with Manchester United still the richest despite relative lack of success domestically or in the Champions League.  United were the highest earners with €676 million although that was down €13 million from 2016 and left them only €1 million ahead of Real Madrid.

“Over the past ten years highlighted in the report, English Premier League clubs have extended their revenue advantage, growing on average by €144 million per club,” UEFA said.

Interestingly sports betting and gambling companies sponsor shirts in 26 out of the 54 domestic leagues. “In ten of those leagues… they are the most common type of shirt sponsor,” said the report. The highest concentration was in Bulgaria (10 out of 14 teams) and England (nine out of 20).

Despite the Premier League still being the richest, it lags behind the Bundesliga, where watching top-flight games is far cheaper, when it came to attendances. Borussia Dortmund had the highest average home attendance at 79,496 followed by Bayern Munich (75,000) and Manchester United (74,976). The Bundesliga had the highest average league attendance (44,511), ahead of England (38,310), Spain (27,068), Italy (24,706) and France (22,548).

As far as wages are concerned, nine of the top 20 biggest payers in Europe were in the Premier League – Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Crystal Palace, Leicester and Southampton. City are also the most expensively assembled squad in history. Pep Guardiola’s team cost £702m to assemble.

For the first time ever, all 20 Premier League clubs reported operating profits (before transfers and financing) in 2017, financial fair play having played a significant role in improving club balance sheets, UEFA said.

Arguably the most alarming factor is how the gap in revenues between rich and poor showed no sign of receding.

“Recent issues of this report have brought the challenges of polarisation and competitive balance into focus, illustrating how financial gaps are augmented by globalisation and technological change, and it is therefore more essential than ever that all stakeholders work together to keep football strong up and down the pyramid,” wrote UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

“Football will never be equal, it doesn’t live in a bubble, but I truly believe it is UEFA’s role as guardians of the European game to ensure that football in every one of the 55 member associations can exploit its full potential, and we will work to support this.”

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