Playing the numbers game

REAL Madrid top for a ninth consecutive year, Barcelona their chief rival: it may not look like much has changed in world football’s latest rich list, yet those facts belie a year of flux and fascinating trends.

For two Middle East-funded upstarts, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, 2012-13 was a season of major gains in Deloitte’s Football Money League, the former bursting into the top five and the latter becoming England’s second richest club.

Both owed much to rocketing commercial income from sponsors and other partners – an area emerging as “a really key battleground”, according to Dan Jones, a partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

“You don’t need to spend tens of millions [on a stadium] to generate commercial revenue in the way you do for new matchday revenue,” he told City A.M. “Commercial revenue is under your own control, whereas, with a couple of exceptions, broadcast revenue is centrally generated, shared and controlled.”

Qatari-owned PSG’s €254.7m (£218.3m) was the highest annual commercial revenue ever recorded by a football club and a huge 82 per cent increase on the previous campaign. Fuelling that extraordinary growth is a controversial partnership deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority that was worth €150m to PSG last season alone, with that figure increasing annually.

Abu Dhabi-backed City’s €166.9m (£143m) commercial revenue was more than half of their total income and a 28 per cent rise year on year. That, too, is aided by a mammoth contract with a top company based in their owners’ homeland, Etihad Airways, thought to pay up to £40m per season for sponsorship of City’s shirts, stadium and training complex.

PSG and City’s transactions – and specifically whether those deals were done at fair market value with parties operating at arm’s length from the clubs’ ultimate owners – are under intense scrutiny from Uefa as the European governing body applies new rules on financial fair play in spring.

They were far from the only teams to benefit from commercial growth, the biggest income contributor for five of the top six and an unprecedented 11 of the top 20. Overall revenues grew by eight per cent, with only two teams suffering significant drops in income and Manchester United falling a place despite earning an extra £43m. “If you stall,” Jones adds. “Someone else will overtake you.”