by Tony Attwood
In 2018/19 Arsenal had the fifth highest match day revenue of any football club in the world, behind Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man U and PSG. That Arsenal have maintained this position, despite falling out of the Champions League and having a supporters’ revolt going on around them, along with massive antagonism in the media, is truly remarkable.
But … of course that reliance on match days became a huge problem when the stadium shut down. It meant our prime source of revenue vanished – even when matches started up again. And just how big a problem that is we can see from the fact that with 25% of our revenue coming from match day income we are the most match day dependent club in the world. In short, we need to maximise revenue from every other source to cope with the lack of match day income.
In domestic TV revenue during 2018/19 we came in 8th, behind Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, and Manchester United, Tottenham, and Real Madrid.
This reflects the declining interest in Arsenal during the season. There was no Arsene Wenger who was always considered a draw, (not least on overseas TV where most of the time he could converse in the language of the interviewer). After Wenger, Arsenal was managed by a man who was not so erudite, and had a team playing less exciting football.
Then once the TV audience stopped finding the placards, marches and plane banners interesting, there was not much else to attract them in. AFTV was of interest to the media for a while, but that quickly became boring as well.
But it is when we come to look at European TV income that the figures (pulled together by Swiss Ramble) start to look really poor. In terms of European TV, Arsenal came in 18th in the money league. First were Barcelona, second Liverpool – for although it wasn’t Liverpool’s title winning season the club did get to the Champions League final – and as such earned three times as much European TV money as Arsenal. As indeed did Tottenham who came in third in the overseas TV income. Arsenal in 18th were behind the likes of Roma and Napoli.
This meant that on figures taken from the Deloitte Money League, Arsenal were 9th in overall TV money – something that will have declined even further last season because of the early exit from the Europa. Although the run in the FA Cup to the final will have helped a little more.
Overall, in terms of commercial revenue the club has now slipped down to 13th, two places behind Tottenham – their revenue aided by that Champs League run.
Of course other clubs have problems too. Everton for example got 71% of their income from TV among the clubs surveyed by Swiss Ramble. (For Arsenal it was only 47%). That Everton figure means that nearly three quarters of their income is largely outside their control – it is at the whim of broadcasters. If they think Everton is not a team worth showing, then their biggest source of income is going to decline.
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The area that is most readily under the club’s control, irrespective of everything else is commercial income – everything from sponsorships to replica kits. Here Arsenal are again behind Tottenham, and way behind the rest of the traditional top six – although some of Tottenham’s money would have come from up-front payments from companies buying space within their new stadium.
But mostly these figures do represent a fairly sorry state of affairs for Arsenal, as the next set of figures (for 2019/20) are certain to be worse. They reflect two years of following a path of swapping managers, having a temporary manager, spending a fortune in the transfer market and slipping down the league.
True, the club seems to have got the right manager in the end but that is in the end, not in a carefully planned process. Allowing protesting supporters to display their negativity to the ever-eager media day by day harmed the club enormously, and led to a point where some of the media were more interested in the antics of AFTV as they were in Arsenal FC.
We also have the point now where the club is seen to be needing to replace several members of the squad, but don’t have the sort of money that other clubs are currently able to spend. Previously that didn’t matter too much because players would come to Arsenal to play for Mr Wenger, and he had the knack of finding gems for nothing. But now we are in a new position.
A bad position which is not helped by the dispute that has broken out between China and the Premier League which has led to the Chinese authorities withholding £160m owed to the PL clubs for TV rights.
Of course that is not Arsenal’s fault – and we’ll come back to that dispute in a later article – but it is the sort of financial problem that the club could do without at this time.
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