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Manchester United have been unseated as world football’s biggest earners after slipping to third behind Real Madrid and Barcelona in Deloitte’s annual report into club revenues. However, the underlying financial strength of the Premier League was emphasised as English clubs provided six of the top 10 in the accountancy experts’ money league, a record from a single country.

The report found that football continues to boom, with the 20 highest-earning clubs in the world generating a record £7.4bn of combined revenue in 2017-18, an increase of 6% on the previous year. United, though, were unable to keep pace with Madrid and Barcelona after pulling in £581m in 2017-18, a fall of £8.8m on the previous season. The report’s authors found that United, despite returning to the Champions League last season, received broadly similar sums from Uefa as they did from winning the Europa League in 2016-17.

Madrid, meanwhile, moved from second to first by increasing revenues by more than £85m to £665.2m off the back of a third consecutive Champions League title and a big uplift in sponsorship, merchandising and the exploitation of increasingly lucrative pre-season fixtures. They are the first club to generate more than €750m. Barcelona made it a Spanish one-two with revenues of just over £611m, a rise of more than £50m, after signing a new shirt sponsorship with a Japanese e-commerce company and winning La Liga.
“European football remains a bull market, with annual revenue growth of almost €450m [approximately £390m],” said Dan Jones, a Deloittepartner. “Real Madrid’s outstanding financial performance in 2017-18 is built on their long history of success on the pitch, most recently three consecutive Champions League titles. This has enabled the club to continue to drive commercial revenue as the appetite to partner with Europe’s most successful clubs remains stronger than ever.”
English clubs continued to perform strongly off the pitch with Manchester City (£503.5m) remaining in fifth position and Liverpool (£455m) climbing from ninth to seventh after increasing revenues by more than £90m following their run to last year’s Champions League final.

Chelsea (£448m), Arsenal (£389m) and Tottenham (£379m) were eighth, ninth and 10th respectively, with the Gunners losing nearly £30m in revenues after failing to qualify for the Champions League. Spurs, meanwhile, had a £26.5m increase in match-day revenue following their temporary move to Wembley and Champions League participation and closed the gap on Arsenal to around £10m.

However, while Premier League clubs dominate the Money League with 13 clubs in the top 30, Deloitte warns that the lack of substantial increases for the next broadcast cycle means more clubs from the other “big five” leagues may start to narrow the gap.

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Sam Boor, a senior manager at Deloitte, said: “The substantial presence of Premier League clubs continues to be felt in this year’s money league. However, with the Premier League’s tender for the next cycle of domestic rights from 2019-20 complete and sale of overseas rights nearing conclusion, it is clear that Premier League clubs will be unable to rely on explosive growth in broadcast distributions as a source of future growth, as has been the case in recent years.”

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