Real last season became the first team in any sport to record revenue of more than €400m (£341m), despite a relatively unsuccessful season, while their domestic rivals Barca were the next biggest earners with €366m (£312m).
That was almost €40m more than English champions Manchester United, who slightly increased revenue to €327m (£279m) but still slipped one place to third in the annual football money league compiled by Deloitte’s sports business group.
United’s top-flight rivals Arsenal climbed back into the top five with €263m (£224m), while Chelsea, with €242m (£206m), and Liverpool, with €217m (£185m), stayed among the biggest earners in sixth and seventh respectively.
Barcelona’s treble success – they won the league, cup and Champions League – also provided a financial boost, but it was the huge jump in television income that separated them and Real from other elite clubs. Real’s broadcast revenue leapt from €136m (£116m) to €161m (£137m), while Barca’s shot up even more, from €116m (£99m) to €158m (135m), during the 2008-09 campaign. Both clubs benefit hugely from being allowed to negotiate their own broadcast deals, unlike their counterparts in England, France and Germany.
“Real and Barcelona can generate money in a way that Man United can’t,” Deloitte partner Dan Jones, who edited the report, told City A.M. “Barca got €158m from broadcasting while Man United only got €117m – that is the whole gap between the two clubs and then some.”
While the Spanish system has helped its biggest teams get bigger, it may be at the expense of their smaller rivals, none of whom make the top 20. England’s strength in depth, meanwhile, is reflected by it boasting seven sides again this year – more than any other country – and four in the top 10.
The Premier League instead sells rights for the top flight as a whole, distributing the income among its 20 teams according to position in the table. Last season United were paid around £52m and bottom club West Brom £31m in a system a League spokesman called “the most equitable” of Europe’s biggest domestic divisions.
“The collective selling of broadcast rights is the cornerstone of the Premier League’s success,” he told City A.M. “The level of income we provide across all 20 of our clubs is unparalleled in any other European league and the clubs recognise the importance of strong competition rather than one or two super-clubs mopping up all the broadcast revenue in any given market.”
Italian clubs are set to adopt a collective bargaining agreement from next season, which Jones believes could threaten the top 10 status of Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan in the long-term. He added: “If Hamburg, Tottenham, Marseille or Lyon get a really good run in the Champions League and get new stadium projects underway, all of a sudden, they can start to catch up.”
Nine of the top 10 are the same as the previous year, and Jones expects little to change next time, with Real, Barca and United occupying the top slots, albeit with the possibility of a reshuffle.