In Depth

Football finances: agents earn £1.1bn and Man Utd rake in the revenues

Uefa reveals boom in transfer fees, wages and profits for Europe’s top football clubs

The “twin forces” of technology and globalisation are contributing to a European football success story where clubs, players and agents are enjoying more financial riches than ever before. 

According to the latest benchmarking report from Uefa, European football’s governing body, revenues have grown 10% year-on-year since the turn of the century as the sport continues to significantly change its business model. 

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said that the “positive revenue, investment and profitability trends” identified last year are continuing and the “underlying health” of European club football is evident.

Sefton Perry, head of the Uefa Intelligence Centre Analytics, added: “While the ultimate source of club revenue remains essentially the same, the twin forces of technology and globalisation are leading to an unprecedented reshaping of the club football landscape.

“Only a limited number of clubs are able to fully exploit the enormous commercial opportunities offered by the global market. These clubs are opening offices across the world, introducing new categories and tiers to their commercial partnerships and using technology to offer tailored access to their supporters and expand the brand of both the clubs and their partners.”

However, there was one warning for Europe’s cash-rich clubs – everything depends on the continuing growth in TV revenues.

We take a look at the report’s highlights and how the Premier League is leading the way in terms of profits, revenues, attendances and transfer fees.

Eleven clubs welcome one million spectators

During the 2016-17 season 11 European clubs recorded an aggregate attendance of more than one million spectators for league matches. Barcelona, who average 78,034 per La Liga clash, topped the table with 1,482,646. After moving to the London Stadium, West Ham are in seventh place while Liverpool are in 11th.

The Uefa report says that the Premier League had the highest total attendance in 2016-17 but Germany’s Bundesliga recorded the highest average for each match. The English Championship was the third most-attended league in Europe last season.

Top 11 European clubs by aggregate attendances (2016-17)

  • 1. FC Barcelona 1,482,646 
  • 2. Manchester United FC 1,430,510 
  • 3. Borussia Dortmund 1,354,101 
  • 4. Real Madrid CF 1,319,094 
  • 5. Bayern Munich 1,275,000 
  • 6. Arsenal 1,139,183 
  • 7. West Ham United 1,082,468 
  • 8. Celtic 1,039,794 
  • 9. Schalke 04 1,031,951 
  • 10. Manchester City 1,026,361 
  • 11. Liverpool 1,007,304
Summer shopping hits record highs

During the summer of 2017 European clubs spent a record £4.95bn on transfers. Six of the top 20 deals of all time were recorded last summer and 80% of global spending was in the top five European leagues – England, Italy, France, Spain and Germany. The Premier League was both the biggest spender as well as the biggest earner during the summer transfer window. The report stated: “The summer window spending was equivalent to 28% of the projected total club revenue for the 2017 financial year, setting another new benchmark as this is 6% higher than the highest value in the last ten years.”

Agents earn a nice slice of the profits

Since 2013 football agents have earned more than £1.1bn in transfer fee commissions alone. According to the Uefa analysis of clubs from 37 member associations, 2,000 transfer deals were reviewed and agent commissions averaged 12.6% of the transfer fee. The report states: “An eye watering €1.2bn [£1.1bn] of agent commissions were reported by clubs on the 2,000 transfers reviewed, which covered about 40% of overall European club transfer spending during the period 2013-2017. In total these commissions were equivalent to 12.6% of the transfer fees with the mid commission rate at 13.3%.”

Man Utd top the revenue table

In the 2016 financial year Manchester United generated revenues of £610m – a year-on-year growth of £149.6m and a 32% increase. Out of Europe’s top 30 clubs United are first, with Barcelona second and Real Madrid in third. The average annual revenues for the top 30 clubs is £270m with the average year-on-year growth at £30.1m. Twelve English clubs feature in the top 30 – including Championship side Aston Villa. “The top 30 clubs generated over €9.1bn [£8bn] in revenues in FY2016,” said the Uefa report. “This amount represents just under half of all European top-division club revenues. Every one of the top 30 clubs reported an increase in revenue in FY2016, the 12% average growth rate matching that of the previous year.”

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City earn most revenue from Uefa

Manchester City, who reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in the 2015-16 season, top the Uefa revenue listings. City earned £73.5m compared to second-placed Real Madrid, who made £72.5m. The top 10 clubs by Uefa revenue all reached the 2015/16 Champions League knockout stage.

Arsenal fans are the biggest spenders

The Gunners make on average £86.58 from each fan attending a league match at the Emirates. According to Uefa, Arsenal top the league for the “average yield per league match attendee” ahead of Chelsea, who make £80.30 per spectator. Arsenal are also the highest earners in Europe for gate receipts.

Player wages grow across the top 20 leagues

The Uefa report states that for the first time on record the average wage bill (£136.2m) of the highest-paying league (English Premier League) was more than double that of the next highest-paying league (Germany’s Bundesliga, £66.6m). The Premier League clubs’ average wage bill total has increased by 13% and is 63% of total revenue. Barcelona are the biggest spenders in Europe when it comes to wages (£329.3m) ahead of Manchester United (£284.2m) and Real Madrid (£271.8m).

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