Big increase in 2016 club revenues linked to Dundalk’s European run

Revenues grew by 73% to €19m thanks mainly to Europa League campaign

 Daryl Horgan takes a free kick in Dundalk’s Europa League group stage game against AZ Alkmaar at Tallaght Stadium in November 2016. Photograph:  Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Daryl Horgan takes a free kick in Dundalk’s Europa League group stage game against AZ Alkmaar at Tallaght Stadium in November 2016. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Combined revenues for the Airtricity League’s top flight clubs soared 73 per cent to €19 million for the 2016 season according to figures released by Uefa, although almost all of the increase is accounted for by Dundalk’s participation in the Europa League group stages that summer with the result that they are likely to have fallen back substantially during the past 12 months.

Uefa’s annual benchmarking report, which compares club revenues from across the 54 leagues of its member associations records a decline of between 10 and 15 per cent in attendances at Irish games that year but significant increases in clubs revenues and player wages, although in both of these latter instances Dundalk’s success that summer appears to be the key factor.

Overall revenues are reported to have jumped from €11 million in 2015 to €19 million the following year with the €8 million difference only fractionally more than Dundalk earned in prize money from Uefa over the course of 2016.

The proportion of total revenues attributable to income from Uefa is recorded as having almost trebled from 2015, when it was 15 per cent, to 43 per cent in 2016, something that again suggests Dundalk’s dramatically changed finances are the key factor at work.

Sponsorship and commercial (32 per cent) and gate receipts (21 per cent) are listed as the other main income streams for 2016 with four per cent coming from assorted other sources.

Dundalk’s influence extends into the area of earnings too, it seems, with wages up 28 per cent in 2016, the seventh highest rise across Europe (almost treble the rate of 10 per cent recorded here for the previous year). Earnings at most of the league’s better clubs were rising strongly around this time as most continued their recovery from the difficulties they had endured during the economic crash. At Dundalk the annual accounts for the club show that wages and salaries more than doubled from €904,000 to €2.09 million with total staff costs up from €988,000 to €2.7 million.

The figures give an indication of the gap that exists between clubs here and abroad in terms of spending on players. Total wages in the Premier Division that year are listed as €8.6 million, or around €700,000 per club, with 70 per cent of that (almost exactly the European average) going to players.

That places Ireland in 37th place in terms of the amount spent on talent while the league’s ranking in Europe for the year in question was 38. The figure represents half what the average Slovenian club spends and just over twice what the average Irish League outfit lays out. In Sweden, against whose clubs Irish sides have had some success in recent years, the average wages bill was €5.3 million.

The report serves to highlight the ever widening gap between rich and poor between the European game’s top table and the rest. That total revenue figure of €19 million is, for instance, less than Arsenal generate from just match day revenues (ticket sales and other income at the ground) over four home games with the London club taking in an average of €5 million, more than any side, and also enjoying a higher yield per spectator (€97.80) than any of its English or European rivals.

Across Europe as a whole club revenue is split almost precisely evenly (34/33/33) between TV revenues, Commercial/Sponsorship and match day income with total club revenues six and a half times what they were just 20 years ago. But the overall increases are clearly being driven primarily by the biggest leagues and, within them, the richest clubs, with 48 turning over more than €100 million in revenue, the biggest of them a multiple of that.

English clubs received an average of €113.6 million in broadcast revenues over the course of the 2016/17 season, some 46 per cent of their revenues with the €50.7 million received by Italian sides amounting to just over half of club income there.

The six most lucrative TV deals were, however, worth 11 times as much as the other 48 with many leagues, including the League of Ireland, generating negligible or no broadcast revenues and several towards the bottom of the list receiving more than half of their income from Uefa, despite having no clubs in the group stages of either competition.

In addition to attendances at league games here having declined during the year in question, it points to five clubs has having made a net loss during 2016 although it suggests the clubs were, collectively, profitable. They made almost nothing from player sales, though; just one per cent of overall revenues compared to close to 10 per cent in Finland and Iceland and around 20 per cent in mid-sized leagues like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus.

The report clearly highlights the impact that European competition income can have on the league as a whole at a time when domestic prize money has been stagnant due to the difficulties that the FAI has been in.

The scale of how it can impact at its most extreme is underlined by the report for 2015, however, with BATE Borisov, who Dundalk would beat in the 2016 Champions League qualifiers, having received €24 million, or 91 per cent of their total income, in prize money from Uefa for their participation in Europe during that year.

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