Manchester United are expected to become world football’s biggest earners in the next 12 months.
Spanish giants Real Madrid have topped Deloitte’s Football Money League for the 11th consecutive year, generating 577m euro (£439m) in 2014-15.
Champions League winners Barcelona are second with 560.8m euro (£426.6m), with United third on 519.5m euro (£395.2m).
But Deloitte said there was a “strong possibility” United would overtake the La Liga sides in next year’s edition.
What is the Deloitte Football Money League?
The professional services firm’s sports business group produce an annual table of the clubs with the highest revenues.
The combined revenue for the top 20 clubs in the table rose by 8% from last year to 6.6bn euro, a new record.
Manchester United slipped from second to third in the table following a year-on-year drop in revenue, but Deloitte said the Premier League club’s “strong commercial growth” and “ability to agree impressive new sponsorship deals” such as the £75m-a-year Adidas kit agreement, compensated for a lack of European football last season.
United’s position “emphasised the strength of their business model”, added Deloitte and with the new £5.1bn television rights deal starting from 2016-17 season, Real Madrid would come “under increasing pressure” next season and in future years.
The wealth of the Premier League – mainly due to strong broadcasting deals – means 17 Premier League clubs feature in the top 30, with West Ham making the top 20 for the first time since 2005-06, with revenues of 160.9m euro (£122.4m).
Deloitte’s Football Money League – 2014/15 revenue
Position (last year’s position)
2014/15 Revenue (euro m) (2013/14 Revenue)
2014/15 Revenue (£m) (2013/14 Revenue)
Atletico de Madrid
West Ham United
Will the bubble burst?
Manchester United topped the first Deloitte Football Money League in 1998, with an overall revenue of £87.9m.
The report’s author, Deloitte partner Dan Jones, was part of the team that compiled that table 18 years ago, and recalls being asked then whether football’s financial model was sustainable.
“I still think this is a growth market,” he said.
“If anything, there will be a small acceleration of growth in the next few years. It might level off a little bit, but that is what it will be rather than any sort of decline.”
The usual suspects
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich have been a constant presence in the top five since 2008, while runaway French league leaders Paris St-Germain have been in the top five for the past three years.
Bayern slipped two places to fourth this year, while the Premier League’s bigger clubs pack the next level.
Manchester City remain in sixth place, while Arsenal moved above Chelsea into seventh and Liverpool sit ninth.
Champions League runners-up and Serie A winners Juventus complete the top 10.
AC Milan were regulars in the top five in the early years of the report, taking third position in three successive years from 2003 to 2005.
However, the Italian club dropped out of the top 10 two years ago and slipped two further places to 14th this year.
Manchester United must start winning eventually
Manchester United’s slip to third is a direct consequence of their failure to qualify for last year’s Champions League, but Deloitte says they could return to the top next year even though they were eliminated from this season’s competition at the group phase.
Their position in the list comes largely as a result of a commercial operation that continues to generate record sums.
However, United have not won a trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 – and Jones expects the Old Trafford club to slip down the money table in future years if their barren run continues.
“You can be successful off the pitch even if you aren’t successful on it for a time,” said Jones.
“The reason why Manchester United is able to be so commercially successful is because they had an incredible 20-year run of on-field success.
“I am not surprised to see Manchester United up there and challenging to reclaim that number one spot they lost 11 years ago. But I don’t think that is a long-term sustainable position if they don’t get more things going for them on the pitch.”
Premier League club West Ham and Serie A side Roma are this year’s new entries.
The Hammers, who were in the Championship in 2012 and have not won a major trophy since their 1980 FA Cup success, generated £160.9m last year with revenues expected to improve further when they
for the 2016-17 season.
This was only £3.9m less than Inter Milan, who won the last of their three European Cups under the guidance of ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho in 2010.
Roma have spent more years in the top 20 than outside it over the past decade, and are pushing towards the top end of Serie A again thanks to the input of an American investment group led by Thomas DiBenedetto.
Premier League dominance
Nine of the top 20 clubs in Deloitte’s list are from the Premier League.
However, the real strength of England’s top flight is shown outside the top 20 – where eight of the next 10 teams are English, sandwiched in between Turkish club Galatasaray (21st) and current Serie A leaders Napoli (30th).
From the 2014-15 season, the only Premier League teams missing from the list are Burnley, Hull and QPR, who were all relegated.
This dominance was assisted by the strength of the pound against the euro, which made buying players from the continent cheaper in relative terms.
With an enhanced TV deal too, it explains how Stoke were able to spend £12m on former Bayern Munich player
in August, and how newly promoted Bournemouth could
earlier this month on loan from Roma for the rest of the season.
“It shows how English clubs can compete for talent with the continental clubs,” said Jones.
Elsewhere in Europe
With the Milan clubs slipping and French teams – other than PSG – disappearing from the top 30 altogether, the hierarchy of European football is changing.
Deloitte says Italian sides have a specific revenue-generating problem, because their stadiums are not suitable for the kind of corporate facilities that generate huge sums.
And with TV deals elsewhere dwarfed by the £5.14bn three-year contract that takes effect in the Premier League from 2016-17, Jones thinks the English threat will grow.
“We expect Real Madrid and Barcelona will remain in the top three, even when the new TV deal is in effect and that PSG and Bayern will be competing hard for a place in the top five, along with the Champions League-qualifying English clubs,” he said.
“It is when you get a little bit further down the pecking order that you find clubs that are quite big in their home market – Juventus, Dortmund, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid – are going to compete with English clubs in the Europa League for a place in the top 20.
“When you get to 21-30, the remainder of the Premier League is way ahead of its competitors elsewhere.”