The English Premier League is in a rich vein of form. Compared to the other European top five leagues (based on UEFA, European football’s governing body, country coefficients: La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1) its commercial well-being currently sits a class above the rest.
Deloitte, a consultancy, compiles financial data on Europe’s top clubs each year, a report aptly named the ‘Deloitte Football Money League’. The 2023 edition (which covers the 2020-2021 season — a season which took place during the pandemic) was a good one for the Premier League’s coffers. The league, one of the UK’s most valuable exports, notched up a record-breaking €5.5 billion of combined revenue — a growth rate of 8% on the previous year’s calculations.
Deloitte, a consultancy, compiles financial data on Europe’s top clubs each year, a report aptly named the ‘Deloitte Football Money League’
For context, La Liga, Spain’s top tier of men’s professional football, recorded a top line of €2.95 billion — just 54% of that of England’s leading football competition.
Moreover, current projections show it wouldn’t be unrealistic to see all 20 Premier League clubs soon occupy places in the list of the top 30 richest football clubs in the world — 16 already do. Naturally, leaders of other footballing bodies on the continent have started to froth.
Clubs abroad with broadcast-rights-figure-envy have previously attempted to reclaim their share of the pie and pre-eminent status. Conniving and clandestine political manoeuvring resulted in the announcement of a mercenary break-away competition in 2021. Yet, the furore generated by the proposed European Super League (ESL) was ultimately thwarted by a united fan response.
Now, with Andrea Agnelli, a chief break-away agitator, resigning from his role as Juventus chairman in November 2022 following a capital-gains scandal, ESL talk has been benched, for the time being.
Advantage Premier League. However, there is real danger on the horizon that the organisation, its clubs and, by extension, fans and communities will get hurt from its increasingly maddening spending.
What was once the playground for millionaires is now the battleground of states and billionaires. New club ownership tests approved on March 30 finally include a ‘humans right abuse’ disqualification — too little too late sneer critics of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund’s acquisition of Newcastle United in 2021. The more rigorous checks are also unlikely to consign Sheikh Jassim’s Qatar-backed bid for Manchester United to defeat.
What was once the playground for millionaires is now the battleground of states and billionaires
A recent government white paper promising greater oversight and regulation is welcome but doesn’t deal with immediate expenditure concerns and past transgressions. Just last month Manchester City were charged with over 100 breaches of financial fair play rules. Only on Friday, Everton, sat 17th in the league, revealed the potential for financial disaster should they be relegated this season, due to a dependence on majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri.
Most top clubs are run at a loss. Furthermore, the pool of billionaires who can afford to make a Premier League team their extravagant plaything is small and only gets smaller if state ownership is clamped down upon. If the current footballing arms race was to reverse, if the bubble was to burst, the full-time consequences could be heart-breaking.