Newcastle United are the 19th richest football club on the planet.
In an era in which St. James’ Park has become synonymous with fan discontent, that seems tough to believe.
Yet according to Deloitte’s Football Money League for the 2013/14 season, the north east club made more cash than European giants such as Roma, Valencia, Benfica, Porto and Ajax (all of whom have competed in this season’s Champions League) as well as Premier League clubs Southampton, Everton, West Ham and Aston Villa.
Newcastle’s revenues increased by 35 per cent from £95.9m to £129.7m last year, sending them back into the Money League for the first time since the 2007/08 season. The club’s commercial revenue rocketed by 50 per cent to £25.6m.
In the Money League report Deloitte writes that “Newcastle United are commercially in the strongest position in their history”, citing long-term sponsorship contracts with Wonga, Thomas Cook and Puma.
It continues: “Given the strong performance of the club coupled with the Toon Army’s continuing support in their impressive numbers, Newcastle should be capable of an extended stay in the Money League in future editions.”
Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley will undoubtedly be delighted with such acclaim (not to mention the £110m he made from selling a small stake in Sports Direct earlier this week), but will Newcastle fans be as bothered?
The Toon Army still flock to St. James' in their numbers, and with an average gate of 50,688, Newcastle had a higher attendances than 11 of the 20 richest clubs in the world last season (Galatasaray, Internazionale, Napoli, Atletico Madrid, Spurs, AC Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG). And yet, disillusionment is rife.
As the below graph demonstrates, increasing revenues have not triggered the same growth in transfer spend. Only twice in the previous five seasons have Newcastle spent more than they have earned.
However, it should be noted that this season, buoyed by record revenues, Newcastle do have a larger net spend of £16.5m although that may well change by the end of the January window.
Yet a fan may well ask if £16.5m can really be considered a statement of ambition for the 19th richest club in the world.
In comparison to the clubs around them in the Deloitte Money League, Newcastle have been pretty thrifty when it comes to transfers.
Looking at the five clubs either side of the Toon Army, only Atletico Madrid (who have suffered from well-documented financial issues) have had a lower average net spend across the last five seasons. In fact, Newcastle and Atletico were the only two clubs to have earned more than they’ve spent in that time.
As the above graph demonstrates, even Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham have been more gung-ho in the transfer market.
Fans of the 19h richest club in the world, whose owner is estimated to be worth £3.7bn, may have a right to ask why exactly that is the case.