For the last couple of years I’ve reported on our progress towards the Deloitte Money Football League. I had just about started an update in February when other things took priority – we had a double to celebrate, then a cup final, and then we started digging what we thought was a grave, only it turned out to be a tunnel. I finished my piece around the start of the World Cup, when there was a lot going on and then went off on holiday. Now here we are, in the transfer window with friendlies underway and next season’s fixtures around the corner, and I’m hoping our esteemed editor can find space between Pete’s reports and Borini’s never-ending saga.
It doesn’t matter anyway; there wasn’t any urgency because we weren’t mentioned. After two years of edging in and edging upwards I knew we wouldn’t make the Money League itself but I thought we’d be higher in Deloitte’s top 30. We weren’t. There was nothing, nada, zilch, even rien to maintain the French flavour of this site. Not a mention. We have dropped out of the reckoning altogether.
Or have we?
For those of you who are wondering what I’m wittering on about let me go back to 1997 when the accountancy firm Deloitte introduced the Football Money League, as much as a gimmick as anything else. They listed the top 20 revenue (or income, they used the words interchangeably in the early days) earners in football. Deloitte don’t look at profit and loss or debt for this league, just the money that comes in through TV payments, matchdays, sponsorship and other commercial activity. The seriously big clubs, Barca and Real Madrid, generate a vast amount more than us and so do the next few – Man Utd, Bayern and so on. Then come the clubs who usually do well in the Champions League and maybe their own leagues, especially the Premier League. They tend to generate better crowds, sponsorship and TV income and we don’t come close to their revenues either. Just think of Chelsea and Man City, for example, who have arrived (one more recently than the other) with a crash, bang, wallop.
Away from the Money League’s top eight, or thereabouts, the the differences in revenue generation become relatively small so clubs like Valencia, Olympique Marseille and Napoli find their position varying from season to season as they wax and wane on the pitch. Liverpool, for example, drifted downwards for a few years but will now rise after a successful season. Celtic were in there a good few years ago but have lost out as other leagues have renegotiated TV deals and Newcastle are a classic example of up-and-down, in-and-out movement. They made the Money League consistently for the first few years, rose quite high when they made the Champions League, disappeared after relegation, replaced Valencia in 20th spot a couple of years ago, then fell back out of the League.
We did make the Money League in one of the early years of its existence but then came relegation, suffering and pain, during which time we were deprived of Premier League incomes. Our last six years, however, have seen us back in the Premiership and ticking over, though not always nicely.
This hasn’t been enough to get us into the top 20 revenue earners and we didn’t reappear in the Money League report until a couple of years ago, after Deloitte began to feature the clubs just outside the top 20. Premiership clubs such as such as Villa, Everton and West Ham (though not after relegation) were prominent in this group and we joined them in 2012 at number 30. A year later we had risen to 29 and I wondered on this site how we would fare in the 2014 report. The answer is – we didn’t.
Now, you need to remember that Deloitte’s publications are effectively a year out of date; January’s was for the 2012-13 season, which might explain our absence. Many of the clubs around us are our Premiership competitors. If they finish higher than us they will earn more merit money. At about £750,000 per place for 2012-13 it mounts up and, let’s face it, we didn’t earn a lot of merit money or attract additional TV coverage during a couple of years of sustained underperformance. According to “Sporting Intelligence” our Premiership payments dropped from £46,373,803 in 2010-11 to £44,369,895 and then to £43,455,776 last season when, overall, we experienced a 2-3% reduction in revenue compared to 2011-12.That was enough to give PL competitors the edge, and allied to a weak pound (Deloitte do it in Euros) it was enough to allow some clubs from other leagues to overtake us.
Still, we survived as a premiership club, and with survival came a much better TV deal and the chance to move back into the reckoning. Despite the despair and the anguish, the ins and the outs, we took that chance. We struggled all season but we finished 14th and that’s worth £71,700,890 in Premier League payments. Throw in a bit more from cup runs, possibly some from improved commercial activity and factor in a stronger pound. It’s a tidy sum, very tidy indeed. It’s over £28 million.
A lot of European clubs will not have improved their revenues by £28 million or more and the gap between Deloitte’s 20th and 30th places is narrow. I’m confident that when Deloitte’s Football Money League report comes out next year we’ll be in it. That’s the easy bit, however. The challenge is to make the Money League itself. Recent history says we’re competing with Newcastle, Everton, West Ham and Villa, all likely to do at least as well as us in the Premiership. So can we do it? It’s a tough call but I think we can. Not next year, that won’t happen, but three years from now?
We’ve been there before. Let’s get there again.
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