Manchester U are regularly seen as the richest club in the world. This, despite their debts, is once again the feeling of Forbes 2011 Soccer Valuation, in its latest survey.
Manchester U have been number one on the Forbes list for seven years running, which is rather dull, and is now valued at something like £1.13 billion.
Second in the list (again, again, oh how boring) is Real Madrid, followed by a surprise new entry in the top three. Arsenal.
Bayern Munich are fourth and Bar Bar Black Sheep are fifth.
So what do we make of these funny lists of richness? Forbes say their lists places a value on teams based on what they have been sold for in the past relative to sales and profits, broadcast agreements and debt from new or pending stadium deals. Which is quite a complex formula and can hide a multiplicity of sins.
What we all know is that Manchester U are saddled with a huge debt of their own, and are the single source of income for the Glazer family who are attempting to prop up the rest of their failing business empire with money from Manchester.
Real Madrid are murkier, given their close relationship to the banks, and I doubt that anyone outside the finance minister of Spain and a couple of fixers in the banks, really knows what the hell is going on. (Mind you that is also true of the Spanish economy as a whole – minus of course the bit about Elena Salgado who is the minister of Economy and Commerce in the country).
But certainly Real Mad do come up with funny stories – like the one about financing a big transfer just on the sale of shirts. As we pointed out at the time on this site you have to sell shirts with one player’s name on to most of Africa if you want to pay for his transfer that way. Sadly the media didn’t do this simple calculation themselves and mostly bought the story.
And then we are third – a huge leap up over the years. But it is important to beware – there are other rich lists around, some of which measure profit, some of which measure assets, some of which measure turnover. We are in different positions in each one.
Back in 2007 Arsenal were hailed in one report as the country’s richest football club because of operating profits of £51.2m and turnovers way above those of Chelsea and Manchester U and not far off Real Madrid.
The real issue always is, is the club viable, and can it keep going. For Manchester U the answer is yes, as long as the fans keep turning up, the club keep doing well, and the Glazers don’t need to take more money out than now (which is a danger).
As for Real Mad, who knows. Their finances do seem to be based on the notions of a semi-crazed hedgehog but if the state is there to prop them up, presumably they keep going. For Chelsea and Man City the answer is down to one man. Not the case with us, since although the majority of shares is held by one man, the club is independently profitable, and he’s not taking anything out of the club (although of course he might – but this is not a piece about futurology).
Our finances are based on profit – real profit – which should keep going ok. It is interesting that I’ve just see the return big time of the “all the season ticket holders are leaving” story of last year. This year it also has a twist in that it claims that unprecedented numbers of season tickets were available last year too, and that next season it will be a case of take whatever ticket you want, if you want to go to a game. I guess we’ll have to run that analysis again, to prove the point (or otherwise).
But for now, according to the odd model Forbes uses, we are the third richest club in the world. Not bad for the club that the Tiny Totts refer to as “the little club from south London”.
Untold Arsenal on Facebook here
History of Arsenal including the series on the failures of Herbert Chapman
Making the Arsenal – the book of Arsenal death and rebirth