The English Premier League’s 20 clubs generate more revenue between them than the 617 clubs in all 50 of Europe’s top flights outside of the “Big Five” according to the latest Uefa benchmarking report.
The document provides startling new evidence of the growing gap between the rich and poor of the continent's club game and underlines the scale of the challenge faced by Irish sides as they look to survive in the collective shadow of giants like Manchester United and Liverpool, whose international reach continues to grow.
The report, which deals with the 2018 financial year, puts total revenues at the 20 Premier League outfits at €5.4 billion, 53 per cent of which is generated from the organisation's domestic TV deal. The combined turnover of the 10 Airtricity League sides is, by contrast, reported to have been just €15 million with TV revenue reckoned to have been so low it does not even merit having a percentage figure attached to it.
Real Madrid are reported to have been the highest earning club of all with income €751 million, well ahead of La Liga rivals Barcelona on €692 million and Manchester United in third on €666 million. English clubs dominate the wider list, however, and Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea all generating more than €500 million.
In terms of live attendances, Barcelona come out on top with 1.43 million compared to 1.41 million for Manchester United. The leading clubs are earning more than ever from those who do attend too, with PSG achieving an average “yield” of €93.30 for every man, woman and child who entered their ground. Among English clubs, Chelsea’s figure of €84.10 is the highest.
Overall, revenues are up across the continent by 80 per cent over the past decade but it is the additional €4.2 billion in television revenues and €2.7 billion in sponsorship and commercial revenues, almost all of which was generated by the biggest leagues.
The rest, 50 leagues that between them include 20 clubs that won European trophies over the years, have become increasingly dependent on revenues from Uefa itself with prizemoney and other funding provided to clubs by the federation up €1.5 billion or 245 per cent since 2009.
Much of this increase has effectively been used to compensate clubs, and their wider leagues, for their growing exclusion from the very top levels of European competitions.
The figures for the Airtricity League, which ranks 36th of 55 top flights in financial terms, are stark. Attendances are said to have grown by between five and 15 per cent by comparison with the previous season, but six of the 10 clubs are reported to have made a loss, with three spending at least €6 for every €5 they took in.
The league fares poorly in terms of stadium and training ground ownership and it is cited as one of just 12 in which no major new infrastructural projects have been delivered within the past decade.
Across Europe, wages were up 9.4 per cent and represented an average of 63.9 per cent of club spending. In England, where, unsurprisingly, players are paid the most, the corresponding figures are 13 per cent and 59 per cent with total wages bills at the Premier League's 20 clubs averaging €161.7 million.
It was around €900,000 at each of the League of Ireland sides (up nine per cent and running at 63 per cent of revenues) although even that is roughly three times the figure for the Northern Irish Football League, where clubs hand over just 42 per cent of income to their players.
Clubs south of the border appear to have a more solid revenue base than their northern counterparts, with 28 per cent of income derived from gate receipts and 36 per cent from commercial operations compared to 19 and 21 per cent respectively in the Irish League.
The year was a poor one for Airticity League sides in Europe, however, with just one club getting through a round and so the figure for this income stream, 16 per cent, is unusually low by current standards. In general, Irish clubs continue to do miserably in terms of transfer income, with clubs receiving fees equivalent to just six per cent of turnover.