If football is so unpredictable why do the rich guys want to buy clubs?




By Tony Attwood

Football clubs lose money – we all know that.   It happens all the time.   And we also know that money doesn’t guarantee success as we watch the big clubs can slip majestically down the leagues faster than they rose up in the first place.  OK the “Big Seven” as we called them from the start of this season are all in the top half of the table, but the gap between Chelsea and Arsenal is currently 23 points, and the gap between Liverpool and Arsenal is 19 points.

And indeed the way things are going both those clubs could completely miss out on European competition next season, just as Arsenal have done after two years of finishing eighth.

And Chelsea do have quite a way to travel – for although their defence is as good as Arsenal’s (both have let in one goal a game on average throughout this season) Chelsea have scored under half as many goals as Arsenal, and that despite record transfer expenditures.  But nevertheless, they, and clubs like Liverpool plod on, with owners seemingly not too worried about their league position.  It is, after all, the money that counts.

And it is not too hard to work out why.  For Liverpool, for example, earned more money from broadcasting income last year than any other club in the world, according to a review of income from CasinosEnLigne.com.

The top earning club in Europe from the actual matchday was PSG, followed by Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur (presumably that was the idea of the new stadium – expenditure in the ground by the wealthy in their boxes).  Arsenal’s income at €94m is only three-quarters of what Manchester United bring in on matchdays, and it is only 15% more than Chelsea’s with its much smaller and more antiquated ground.

Newcastle on the other hand have a lot to make up – and are presumably making it up this year.  Last season their matchday revenue was €33 million.

Surprisingly Manchester City however made only €64 million on mathch days – only around two thirds of what Arsenal made.  For where Manchester City scored (as it were) was on “commercial” revenue, and it is this that has been the source of much gnashing of teeth in recent years.  The point being that organisations that are related to the owners of the club, then come along and do sponsorship deals which other clubs are simply not getting.

Manchester City’s “commercial income” for 2021/22 was €373m, exceeded only by PSG at €383m.  Arsenal languishes way behind with a commercial income of €167m.  So how does PSG and Manchester City do it?

Obviously, I have no direct access to their books, so one can only surmise, but when one does take a peek at the numbers, the answer begins to look like this.  Sheikh Mansour has access to a wealth pot of some $22 billion, and so has every opportunity to have one of his companies sponsor Manchester City in some imaginative way (“Official tractor supplier” is the one that caused many of us to have a bit of a snigger) and then pay in a few hundred million pounds for the pleasure of that title.  Do this quite a few times, and you have enough money to allow the club to buy any player that it wants.

If the Premier League choose to do nothing about it then the clubs get away with it.  If the League does choose to do something then you have a situation like now in which other clubs put enough pressure on the League to take action – in this case against Manchester City.

And of course the sponsorship deals don’t have to be as crass as “official tractor sponsor” – the 100 million can be split between a whole host of smaller deals which maybe allow the “sponsor” to have its name on the door of the training ground, or something along those lines, in an attempt to justify the issue.

So that is how the money rolls in.   And to be fair some of it comes in legitimately, through actual sponsorship deals and worldwide broadcast money.

But there is one other point.  All such ventures are fragile.  If you ever take a look at the rise and fall of Arsenal or any other club over the years you can see that not only does the fortune of individual clubs go up and down, but so does the public interest in football.

This is why issues such as the way clubs look after the well-being of their youngsters is coming more and more under the spotlight.  Clubs do a lot for promising young players, but it also seems that they increasingly take risks, pushing the players ever harder when maybe they need a year out to recover from a nasty injury.  That is the downside.  And there is still no one out there regulating the clubs except for the FA, Uefa and Fifa, all of whom themselves need regulating, observing and being kept in line rather than allowing them to regulate anything.  It is all, in fact, quite a mess.


2 Replies to “If football is so unpredictable why do the rich guys want to buy clubs?”

  1. As for the initial question of the piece, my 2 cents : greed and hubris sprinkled with some sort of nostalgia or fandom

    Greed as they all dream to be able to sell the club at some point down the road making billions in profit and hubris as along the way they are seen, the talk of town, may have a chance to meet some soccer royalty like Messi, Ronaldo or deadwood stars, will probably be seen on TV and in newspapers. However this breed of owners is kind of disappearing…the stakes are way too high in the PL, but you find them in the lower leagues.

    That is however only valid if you are not an oligarch needing to settle down in the UK or a state with a big PR problem and endless financial resources wanting to whitewash it’s brand.

    And it is neither valid if you run a sports organisation that considers it a business like any other, needing and having to manage the finances in a proper way and looking for long term results/benefits.

  2. Tony,

    Are broadcast rights fees included in commercial income? It’s seems all Premier League clubs share in that bit of ‘charity’. I saw a figure of 123 million, on average! Surely that’s more than Match Day revenue. I can’t make the numbers work. What am I missing? Or am I just thick, lol?

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