In the only football league that really matters these days – Deloitte’s Football Money League, which ranks the world’s top clubs by revenue – Manchester United were up two places to second, thanks to higher proceeds from match-day sales and extra income from their Premiership title win and Champions’ League run.
Real Madrid topped the list for the third year in a row; their revenues were boosted by winning the Spanish League last year, thanks partly to the efforts of global clothes horse David Beckham. Although prospects may be less good for the coming season – now Becks has disappeared for the bright lights of Tinseltown, they won’t be able to flog as many replica shirts in Asia.
Current Premiership leaders Arsenal were also big winners this year, rising from ninth to fifth thanks to extra revenue from their swanky new stadium. In total there were six British clubs in the top 20 (including Chelsea in fourth and Liverpool in eighth), showing just how wealthy the Premiership has become – and that’s before the new mega-bucks TV deal.
One noticeable thing about this list is how relatively small these clubs are as businesses. Their combined revenue is about £2.5bn, which is about as much as your bog-standard investment bank loses on sub-prime mortgages every month these days. Real Madrid made £236.2m last year, which would barely get it into the FTSE 250. What’s more, most of them don’t actually make much money – for example, Chelsea are still operating at a loss despite their £191m revenues (presumably because they spend most of their money on John Terry’s wages and Ashley Cole’s divorce lawyers).
Still, the average fan is unlikely to take much pride in seeing their team soar up this list – after all, they’re the ones who tend to foot the bill through higher ticket prices. Man United fans have already been up in arms about the latest round of price hikes, complaining that it’s all about feathering the nest of the club’s owners, the Glazer family.
But perhaps they shouldn’t complain too much – with Arsenal five points clear in the Premiership and lots of the big guns still blocking their path in Europe, the Deloitte Money League could turn out to be Man U’s best chance of winning a title this season...