Money Talks: Analysing The 20 Richest Football Clubs

When Deloitte release their annual list of ‘Richest Football Clubs’, there’s plenty of debate on English football’s earning power, the individual TV deals negotiated by Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United’s position at the top of the Premier League food chain, insane amounts of debt in the game, and so on.

I thought it would interesting to take a closer look at where exactly football clubs are earning their revenues from – and thanks to Deloitte’s data on % of revenues earned through matchday, broadcasting and commercial activities, we can draw the following conclusions (all data pulled from the Guardian):

Commercial Revenues

Bayern Munich are miles ahead of the competition when it comes to commercial revenues, with a whopping 171.19m Euros earned in 2009/2010. Real Madrid are 2nd with 149.12m, with Barcelona 3rd at 123.41m Euros in 09/10. United are, predictably, the best performing English club with a ‘paltry’ 97.94m Euros. This tells us three things:

One, you can’t ‘blame’ TV deals as the only factor in Madrid’s and Barcelona’s financial strength.

Two, English clubs have, theoretically speaking, a lot of margin to improve when it comes to commercial activities, and this in part is behind their bullishness in being able to manage their debts / meet UEFA’s FFP policy.

Three, Italian clubs lag behind their English, Spanish and German counterparts when it comes to commercial revenues, something the likes of Internazionale, Milan and Juventus must work on if they want to compete with their European rivals economically in the long run.

Full List:

Bayern Munich 171.19
Real Madrid 149.12
FC Barcelona 123.41
Manchester United 97.94
Schalke 04 79.69
Liverpool 76.6
Chelsea 69.09
AC Milan 63.67
Hamburger SV 62.87
Manchester City 56.54
Juventus 55.35
Arsenal 54.82
Internazionale 47.21
Olympique de Marseille 45.15
Olympique Lyonnais 42.37
Tottenham Hotspur 38.04
AS Roma 38.04
VfB Stuttgart 36.74
Atlético de Madrid 26.15
Aston Villa 16.41

Matchday Revenues

Barcelona lag behind arch-rivals Real Madrid in the matchday revenues stakes, while Manchester United and Arsenal are comfortably 2nd and 3rd thanks to their high-capacity stadiums. It remains to be seen if United fans boycotting matches in protest of the debt will have a significant impact in 10/11, and we might have Arsenal overtaking United if that is the case.

Both Tottenham and Liverpool earn roughly the same amount from their Matchday activities – but still less than half of Arsenal or United. How important is a new stadium to these clubs? Roughly to the tune of 50m-60m per year.

Chelsea are at an impressive 5th in overall matchday revenues with 81.89m Euros in 09/10 – although they would seem to have maxed out their earning potential in this category.

The Italian clubs are again the biggest losers here, with Juventus earning a miserable 16.4m Euros in 09/10, comfortably bottom of the Matchday revenues list.

Full List

Real Madrid 131.58
Manchester United 122.43
Arsenal 115.12
FC Barcelona 99.53
Chelsea 81.89
Bayern Munich 67.83
Liverpool 51.82
Hamburger SV 49.71
Tottenham Hotspur 45.35
Internazionale 38.22
Atlético de Madrid 36.11
AC Milan 30.65
Manchester City 30.56
VfB Stuttgart 29.85
Aston Villa 29.54
Olympique de Marseille 25.4
Schalke 04 25.16
Olympique Lyonnais 24.84
AS Roma 19.63
Juventus 16.4

Broadcasting Revenues

Barcelona and Real Madrid predictably top the list, generating an impressive 175.16m and 157.9m in revenues respectively. Next are the three big Italian clubs, beating out their English rivals in the broadcasting stakes thanks to lucrative deals of their own.

The collective TV deal for the Premier League is a boon for all Premier League clubs but also a hindrance – how much more could Manchester United earn if they were to sell their own TV
rights? If they could match Madrid or Barcelona, that’s an extra 30m to 50m to be had, which would put them at a par overall with Barcelona and within touching distance of Madrid.

How much would Manchester City stand to gain if, along with a boost in their commercial activities, they could also experience a massive increase in broadcasting income?

Full List:

FC Barcelona 175.16
Real Madrid 157.9
AC Milan 141.48
Internazionale 139.38
Juventus 133.25
Manchester United 129.43
Chelsea 104.92
Arsenal 104.16
Liverpool 96.88
Bayern Munich 83.98
Olympique Lyonnais 78.89
Olympique de Marseille 70.55
Manchester City 65.7
AS Roma 65.03
Aston Villa 63.45
Tottenham Hotspur 62.91
Atlético de Madrid 62.25
VfB Stuttgart 48.22
Schalke 04 34.95
Hamburger SV 33.63

More Fun Facts

Shamelessly copied from the Guardian, these refer to the overall rankings:

  • Real Madrid has the highest revenue – €438.6m, an increase of 9.3% on the previous year
  • The biggest riser is Manchester City – up by 49.5% and nine places to number 11. Tottenham Hotspur did well too – up three places to number 12
  • AS Roma is the biggest dropper – down six places to number 18 with a 16% drop in revenue
  • Manchester United is up 7% in revenue to €349.8m
  • Juventus gets the highest proportion of its revenue from broadcast deals – 65%; Hamburger SV has the smallest – 23%

Full List (Team, 09/10 revenues, 08/09 revenues)

Real Madrid 438.6 401.4
FC Barcelona 398.1 365.9
Manchester United 349.8 327
Bayern Munich 323 289.5
Arsenal 274.1 263
Chelsea 255.9 242.3
AC Milan 235.8 196.5
Liverpool 225.3 217
Internazionale 224.8 196.5
Juventus 205 203.2
Manchester City 152.8 102.2
Tottenham Hotspur 146.3 132.7
Hamburger SV 146.2 146.7
Olympique Lyonnais 146.1 139.2
Olympique de Marseille 141.1 133.2
Schalke 04 139.8 124.5
Atlético de Madrid 124.5 105
AS Roma 122.7 146.4
VfB Stuttgart 114.8 100
Aston Villa 109.4 99


In itself, borrowing money puts your club at a disadvantage – not only do you have to pay that money back, you also need to pay interest, creating a bigger strain on your revenues. If that money has been borrowed to increase overall revenues (like Arsenal, who have seen strong growth in their matchday revenues as a result), it’s a worthwhile risk. If we’re talking about leveraged buyouts, then we are all agreed that those are bad for the club. The loans Real Madrid and Barcelona pull in to help pay their astronomical wages / transfer fees aren’t much better.

However, once the debt is there, crying over it serves little purpose. The key factor then is to understand whether, in the short run, your club can manage the interest payments and in the long run, whether your club can successfully pay off that debt (while still remaining competitive on the pitch).

When it comes to Barcelona and Real Madrid, a debt of 430m (Barcelona) may seem excessive (and coupled with their Qatar Foundation shirt sponsorship, an clear indication that they are just another football club), but these clubs have the revenue generating capability to service such debts and crucially, the socio-political leverage in their respective regions to thrive even if they cannot.

However where the English clubs are concerned, all of them (even Arsenal) need to look at significantly increasing their revenue generating capabilities. TV money is not enough. United and Arsenal are near the top end of maximising matchday revenues but both clubs, especially Arsenal, have plenty of room to grow in the commercial sponsorships / merchandising sector. Both Tottenham and Liverpool, as previously discussed, desperately need to increase their matchday revenues to financially compete with the top English clubs.

Football & Money

Fans look at stats such as 14 out of 20 Premier League clubs being in debt, or 56% of European clubs operating at a loss, and wonder what all the fuss about buying football clubs is if everyone’s losing money. They might benefit from taking the long-term view – football clubs are powerful revenue generators, and as the stats above show, there’s still plenty of room for them to grow.

The reason investors are flocking towards football clubs isn’t because they want to make money (although in some cases that’s definitely the case) – it’s because they see an opportunity to leverage that profitability later down the line and sell the club for a hefty profit (although there will always be investors like Abramovich / ADG who will buy a football club as a personal symbol of power).

If football were a property market, this one has been in a boom for decades (consider the profit the former chairmen / owners / shareholders of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool made in the last 10 years) and shows no sign of stopping.

You can follow Ahmed Bilal on Twitter (@Soccerlens).

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