UEFA report highlights Premier League wealth and growth of European elite
European football is earning more money than ever before, club debt is down and new stadiums are going up, but a new study shows the vast majority of the wealth is concentrated on a few 'super clubs'.
The findings come from UEFA's eighth annual club licensing benchmark report, a 130-page trove of information that European football's governing body describes as the "first and only full picture" of the financial health of 679 top-flight clubs from 54 leagues up to the end of 2015.
The Premier League emerges as by far the most cosmopolitan league in the world, with the highest percentage of foreign coaches, owners and players, and it is also the richest, earning £3.8billion in 2015, more than the combined total of the sixth through to 54th wealthiest leagues in Europe.
English sides dominate the list of richest clubs, with the current top six in the Premier League all in the top 12 wealthiest clubs in Europe, and 14 Premier League clubs in the top 30.
The two richest clubs, however, remain Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, with Manchester United third, Paris St Germain fourth and Bayern Munich fifth. Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool complete the top nine. And it is these clubs who are really pulling in the big money and pulling away from the field.
Europe's 15 richest clubs added more than £1.3billion in commercial revenues between 2009 and 2015, an increase of 148 per cent and three times more than the rest of the continent's top-tier clubs were able to add.
And while the dominant message of the report is that the introduction of UEFA's financial fair play regulations in 2011 have cut losses, increased profits and created a more sustainable environment for European club football, it is the rich who have benefited most of all from the combination of spending restrictions, new broadcast technology and football's growing global popularity.
In the report's introduction, UEFA's head of club licensing and financial fair play Andrea Traverso wrote: " While European football can be proud of what it has achieved in such a short space of time, as in many other sectors today's globalisation has increased opportunities and brought with it new challenges.
"Revenues are increasing but are very much concentrated at the top end (in particular broadcasting, commercial and sponsorship revenues), with only a limited number of clubs able to exploit the enormous opportunities offered by the global market."
Traverso's boss, new UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, was even clearer in his foreword, writing: " Of course, as the guardian of the game in Europe, UEFA must remain vigilant and take note of the less positive trends also highlighted in the report, such as a return to high wage growth and the increasing concentration of sponsorship and commercial revenue among a handful of clubs."
That said, the overall impression is positive as the report says European club revenues have now increased for 20 consecutive years and 82 per cent of the world's football talent, based on transfer values, is on display in Europe.
Among the report's other observations is the increase of foreign ownership across Europe - a record 10 clubs were bought by foreigners up until November in 2016, with eight of those being Chinese investors.
The report also reveals that England's second tier, the Championship, had the fourth highest aggregate attendance - behind the Premier League, Bundesliga and LaLiga - in Europe, but the Scottish Premiership was one of a handful of leagues to see its total revenues fall since 2009.