The Richest League in the World – England, Europe…or both?

13 February 2013

Marco Lopes provides an update on Liverpool’s revenues from the 2011/12 season, as reported by the Deloitte Money League report for 2013, and provides analysis and insights on incoming revenues compared to past years, and other European clubs.  This is the second article of a 3-part series.


Anfield (mrmichaelangelo / Shutterstock.com)
Anfield (mrmichaelangelo / Shutterstock.com)

A brief recap from Part 1 – Liverpool’s 2011/12 revenues look solid and have grown quite well despite the challenges of last season, most significantly that of no European football.  Commercially, FSG’s moves with Standard Chartered Bank and Warrior Sports were good ones that ultimately still helped the club to finish in the top 10 revenue earning clubs in Europe.  With new Premier League restrictions ahead, Liverpool will be under pressure to continue finding astute ways of earning money off the pitch, improving fortunes on it – all while keeping wages under control.

The question is – how does Liverpool really stack financially in Europe?  Are they competitive?

What immediately makes FSG’s, and Liverpool’s life more difficult to predict is the fact that Liverpool play in the most financially flush league in the world, and this is true in more senses than people understand.  FSG may have been astute to milk what they can of the Anfield cash cow, but Liverpool’s broadcasting and commercial revenues can also be largely attributed to the Premier League, which receives significant marketing and financial attention.  Liverpool’s historical fanbase and legacy helps, but it is rather helpful that despite the club’s relative lack of success in past years, the revenues have at least been heading in the right direction.

The issue for Liverpool, however, is their competitiveness in England.  Ironically, Liverpool stack relatively decently when financially compared even to behemoths of Europe past and present.

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If you look at the Top 20 of Deloitte’s latest overall view of clubs in Europe, Liverpool still sit in the top 10, above other historical giants such as Juventus and Inter, and emerging performers like Dortmund, and not far behind Milan.  Liverpool are well behind the spending power of Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid, but most clubs are.  What is concerning is that Liverpool are behind 4 sides from the same league (both Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea), and that gap is threatening to become wider.

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Liverpool’s financial strength in Europe is an interesting affair.  I lamented the issue of Anfield’s capacity and earning prowess in my very first article on This Is Anfield, on Liverpool’s finances.  Yet Liverpool rank 7th of the top 20 clubs when looked at solely by Matchday revenues (obviously this excludes other clubs outside the Top 20 who also earn decently via their stadium, e.g. Celtic, Benfica, etc).  It’s a big gap between Liverpool and the top 6, but consider that in the last 10 years, Liverpool, Milan, Juventus and Inter have all managed to get to at least one Champions League final (not to mention victories for Liverpool, Inter and 2 for Milan as well).  Another winner in the last 10 years, Porto, isn’t even the top earning club in their own league, let alone on the Top 20 list.  The issue of earning power being a definitive predictor of winning the Champions League becomes a matter of grey, not black and white (although the money certainly does help in keeping your chances better than most).

It’s an obvious statement, but while there is certainly a minimum amount of money needed to get you to at least compete for the trophy, you don’t need to be the richest to win the Champions League, just the best at putting it altogether.

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In terms of broadcasting revenue, Liverpool stacked reasonably well – and that is without any European football at all last season.  This shows how lucrative (and important) the domestic TV revenues are.  Every team in the top 20 who earned more in broadcasting than Liverpool was in the Champions League last year.  Premier League football does much to help Liverpool earn its keep – and the cup runs last year no doubt helped a bit too.

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Liverpool’s “over-achievement” looks even more impressive when one looks at the graph for commercial revenue.  Man City has skyrocketed alongside a traditionally strong and well marketed group of Man Utd, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern.  Liverpool impressively take their place after these 5 clubs, another indication of just how well they’ve managed to hold up their revenues in Europe.  A pity then that the richer 4 of Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea are the ones who look like they’ve established themselves as the usual English suspects, with Tottenham, rather than Liverpool, as the club closest to knocking on the door of consistent Champions League qualification.

All this highlights the possibility that the current finances of Liverpool could indeed empower the creation of a team capable of handling its own in the Champions League – but Liverpool’s issue is GETTING to the actual competition.  That is made all the more difficult by the fact that only 4 spots to qualify exist, and at least 5 teams in England are more capable than Liverpool to take them.

We could all hope for UEFA to award 5 or 6 spots to England for entry in Europe’s elite competition, but I think Platini would need to find early retirement before that becomes considered – and besides, Liverpool fans don’t want a team to compete for 5th / 6th in the long term anyway.  Perhaps many can be cynical that 4th place is considered a “trophy” before the domestic cups or even UEFA’s secondary competition (Europa League), but to be in the top 4 of the Premier League and in the Champions League is a financial sweet spot that drives all clubs in that position to benefit massively from the achievement.

It’s something Liverpool need to prioritise soon.  The conclusion of this series looks at the revenues of the English clubs standing in Liverpool’s way of achieving this, and how they stack in relation to the Reds.

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