English soccer clubs rake in $3.4 billion

Premier League clubs spent more on wages last season than in any year since its inception in 1992.
European football clubs are bucking the trend of the worldwide recession, with England’s Premier League leading the way after posting $3.4 billion in revenues for the 2007-08 season.

The Premier League extended its financial superiority over its nearest rivals in Germany and Spain to more than $1.4 billion, according to Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance. This result from its 20 clubs came despite the British pound’s 15 percent devaluation against the Euro currency, Deloitte said. Italy’s Serie A was the fastest growing league, increasing its total revenue by 34 percent to $1.99 billion — with the return of Turin giants Juventus to the top flight contributing two-thirds of that upturn. The total European football market grew by $1.4 billion to $20.76 billion, fueled by a $995 million increase in the ‘big five’ leagues plus the staging of the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland. Deloitte’s Dan Jones, one of the authors of the report, said he expected English clubs to continue being profitable despite the uncertain economic climate, but perhaps not at the same “remarkable” rate. Between 1992 and 2008, revenues for the top 20 clubs grew at a compound annual rate of 16 percent, compared with 5.4 percent for the UK economy as a whole,” he said. “Revenue increased by 26 percent in 2007/08 and Premier League clubs generated £800 million more revenue than their nearest rivals from the other ‘big 5′ leagues.

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“It will, of course, be hard to maintain this pace in the immediate future. The new economic realities may lead to flat match-day revenues. While attendances continue to hold up well, many clubs have frozen or reduced ticket prices. “However, the stepped increases in the current domestic broadcast deal and the new UEFA Champions League TV deal make it likely overall revenues will edge up.” Deloitte said most of the increased broadcast revenue had been spent on player wages and transfers. Wage costs in the Premier League soared by $372 million, or 23 percent, in 2007/08 to reach $1.96 billion — which represented its largest annual increase since its inception in 1992. Chelsea were the biggest spenders on $282 million, ahead of champions Manchester United ($198 million), Arsenal ($165 million) Liverpool ($148 million) and Newcastle ($123 million) — whose relegation at the end of the 2008/09 season could have dire financial implications for the club. Meanwhile, Premier League clubs’ spending on player transfers in both the summer 2008 and January 2009 transfer windows reached new record levels with an estimated $1.1 billion paid out. Deloitte’s Alan Switzer commented: “Despite this increase in wage costs, Premier League clubs improved their wages/revenue ratio to 62 percent and generated record operating profits in 2007/08 of £185 million ($303 million). “However lower revenue growth in forthcoming seasons means clubs will have to focus on improving cost control — both wages and other operating costs — if profits are to be maintained.” Deloitte said while the Premier League’s total debt had risen, two-thirds of this was taken up by the top four clubs — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United — and around $2 billion of it was non-interest bearing “soft loans”. “On the positive side of the balance sheet, these four clubs also had £1 billion ($1.64 billion) of assets in respect of investment in stadia and other facilities and a further £450m ($738m) from investment in players,” said Deloitte’s Paul Rawnsley.