According to the latest Deloitte ‘Football Money League’ report, Real Madrid and Barcelona have overtaken Manchester United as the top earning soccer clubs in the world.
Los Blancos pulled in a staggering €750.9M ($854.6M USD) for the year. The revenue uptick came in part from increased sponsorship, merchandise, pre-season fixtures, and another Champions League win.
Barcelona increased their revenue to €690.4M, coming in second overall.
Last year’s top earning club, Manchester United, fell to third, seeing a slight drop in revenue from €676.3M to €666M.
Real Madrid are the first football club to generate more than €750m 🔥 pic.twitter.com/o0ZDcqkavz
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 24, 2019
Liverpool, aided by their sale of Phillipe Coutinho and Champions League run, were among the biggest financial winners of them all, likely becoming the first club to clear €100M in PROFIT. You’ll never walk alone or broke.
Wait…But Is This Good for European Soccer?
If you care about the overall competitiveness of European leagues, the answer to that would be a resounding “no.”
But do you really care?
The gulf between the haves and the have nots is growing. If you look at the above chart from ESPN FC, you’ll notice six of the top 10 earning clubs are The Big 6 from England. The top 6 teams in the Premier League table as of today? The Big 6.
Expect this to bear further fruit for the Premier League as well. Nine of the top 20 teams are from England’s top domestic league. Also represented in the top 20 are Everton, Newcastle, and West Ham.
While Real Madrid’s financial success isn’t translating completely to the pitch this year, every team has a down year. There are absolutely no surprises in that list, and the top earners all mirror the top performers in their respective leagues and Cups.
Interestingly, European soccer is significantly more capitalist in nature than American sports league. The teams that earn the most dominate the leagues for the most part. They’re not forced to revenue share to the same degree. It’s basically a free-market. American sports leagues are all about creating parity. It’s socialist in nature. They do revenue share. They do try to find a competitive balance. And only absolute stand-out organizations like the New England Patriots are immune to temporary tumbles towards mediocrity.
Sure, a Jose Mouriho can derail Manchester United for a brief spell, but even in their darkest hour, the Red Devils still sat sixth in the Premier League table.
One of the reasons the Premier League is considered the most competitive of the five major European leagues is simply because they have six top earning clubs paying and playing at an elite level.
The same can’t be said for Ligue 1 or Serie A, where one team will dominate while a host of proud and reputable (but not as financial viable) clubs via for a top four finish and invite into the UEFA Champions League.
Does This Need to Be Fixed?
No. First, is it really even broken? And second, given the money at stake now, there are no fixes the top earners would likely be willing to accept.
Soccer ratings and TV rights are soaring. While part of this is due to the game’s growing popularity, part of it is because, for the most part, traditional powerhouse clubs are doing well, so people are tuning in.
While this may mean an Everton or Eibar or Schalke 04 will never sniff a league title again, do you really care?
Sure, Leicester City‘s Premier League 5000-1 run was interesting and attention grabbing, but is it really better than Liverpool and Manchester City battling it out this year? Would it attract more of a TV audience and in turn, ad revenue? No.
If NFL style revenue sharing were even attempted to be enacted, it would almost surely lead to the long rumored European Super League (and who wouldn’t deep down love that).
The reality is with TV rights, sponsorships, merchandise, and Cup earnings all on the rise, the disparity between the haves and have nots will only grow. And the sport will likely be better off for it.