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World’s biggest football clubs generate $9.6bn in revenue

The top 20 teams in the 2017-18 Deloitte Money League generated a record £7.4bn (€8.3bn/$9.6bn) in annual turnover, with Real Madrid overtaking Manchester United at the top of the table after increasing revenues by more than £85m for the year.

Manchester United slipped to third, as Madrid’s Spanish rivals FC Barcelona also climbed above the English side in the rankings. Madrid’s fourth Uefa Champions League title in five years contributed to its return to the top, as did its €356.2m in commercial revenues, the highest in world football.

Despite the Spanish teams’ preeminence at the top, however, the rest of the list is dominated by Premier League clubs, propelled by the division’s huge broadcast rights deals. Six of the top ten – a new record – and nine of the top 20 came from England’s top flight.

Above all, the list reaffirms the fact that “European football remains a bull market,” as Deloitte’s Dan Jones put it. The collective turnover of €2.1bn of the top three is more than double the aggregate revenue of the same top three clubs 10 years previously, reflective of the rapid and continuing financial growth of European football.

David Bick, a football finance expert, told SportBusiness that the report is a “handy reference guide” but cautioned against reading too much into a measurement that “only looks at club turnover, which is just one in a whole range of measurements when you’re looking at the financial efficiency of a business.”

Deloitte does not take into account club debts, for instance, nor does it list profits. Earlier this week, Inside World Football reported that Liverpool FC – in seventh place on the Deloitte list – is set to become the first football club to post over €100m in profits when it releases its accounts in March.

“It’s a fairly accurate guide to how a club is performing commercially,” Bick said, “but it doesn’t offer much insight into the deeper, long-term financial stability of a business.”

The £50m between Madrid’s overall revenues of £750.9m and Barcelona’s £690.4 is the biggest gap between the top two in the 22-year history of the Deloitte Money League. The single-year growth of £85m seen by Real Madrid was another record, as was their 12th appearance at the top of the list.

With the Spanish giants occupying the top two spots, the ranking also highlights the wealth disparity inside LaLiga. Altético Madrid, in 13th place, is the only other Spanish side to feature in the top 20. In a statement given to SportBusiness, Joris Evers, chief communications officer of LaLiga, said that while there was much to celebrate in the Deloitte list for Spanish clubs, LaLiga is also focussed on narrowing this gap.

“While it is great to see football grow as an industry, we need to ensure that smaller leagues and clubs can benefit from this growth as well,” Evers said. “A concentration of wealth can ultimately damage the football pyramid.”

The rankings also correlate closely with another report released today – Mailman’s Red Card 2019 Report, which looks at football club’s social media performance in China. Nine clubs appear in the top tens of both lists, with Juventus replacing Tottenham Hotspur on the Red Card Report. The correlation, the Mailman report suggests, “indicate[s] that a club’s financial power and level of available investment has a direct impact on their popularity online in China.”