Financial might of Real Madrid and Barcelona casts a shadow over La Liga’s problems

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
If Deloitte’s annual rich-list for football’s highest earners were used to form a 20-team European Super League, Spain would have just two representatives.

For the fourth year running, Real Madrid and Barcelona top the table for football club income over the previous 12 months, with the capital club out in front for the eighth edition in a row with an overall income of over €500m (they are the first team to achieve this), followed by their fierce rivals (with €483m). Encouraging numbers for Castilians and Catalans, but damning statistics for the rest of La Liga.

Tellingly, Valencia dropped out of the top 20 altogether this year, to be replaced by a team currently hovering just above the relegation zone in the Premier League, Newcastle. Los Che finished third in La Liga for each of the last three seasons, remain the last team from outside Spain’s big two to win the Primera Division title (in 2002 and 2004) and are the only other side from the country to compete in a European Cup or Champions League final (2000 and 2001) since Atletico Madrid in 1974. Yet the Costa Blanca club are currently crippled by debt, were forced to temporarily suspend building of their Nou Mestalla stadium, have sold most of their finest footballers in recent years (including David Villa, Juan Mata, David Silva and Jordi Alba) and have barely made a ripple in the Champions League over the last few seasons. On top of that, Valencia were thrashed 5-0 at home to Madrid on Sunday. Despite being the ‘best of the rest’ in recent seasons, they simply cannot compete.

After 20 rounds of La Liga, Atletico Madrid are in second, but Diego Simeone’s side will be forced to part company with star striker Radamel Falcao in the summer to clear debts and are outside the top 20 in this list, too.

Among the top 20 richest teams, seven come from England (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle), five from Italy (AC Milan, Juventus, Inter, Napoli and Roma), four from the Bundesliga (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Hamburg), two from La Liga (Madrid and Barca) and two more from France (Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais).

REAL MADRID & BARCELONA | How they topped the Deloitte list

Madrid lead the elite for the eighth year in a row and have become the first team to surpass €500m in a 12-month period, thanks to a successful season on and off the pitch in 2011-12. The capital club boosted broadcast income with a series of lucrative friendlies in the United States, China and Kuwait, among other places, as well as increasing matchday revenue and growing their commercial coffers after they extended their kit deal with Adidas through to 2020.

Shirt sponsorship at the capital club, however, is up for renewal in 2013 and Deloitte believes a new contract will see the Spanish side stay on top of next year’s rich-list. “Given the value of recent shirt deals negotiated by their European peers,” the group noted, “Real Madrid may expect further revenue growth with a new deal. These factors, combined with the planned expansion of the Bernabeu, mean Madrid are strongly placed to retain their top position in the Money League, for a record breaking ninth year and beyond.”

Barcelona, meanwhile, saw a slight dip in broadcasting revenue last season, partly because the Catalans missed out on a place in the final of the Champions League, which they won in 2010-11. Total income, however, was well up on the previous campaign as Pep Guardiola’s side picked up four out of six trophies in his last season as coach at Camp Nou, including the Club World Cup. Commercial revenue increased significantly, largely thanks to the club’s shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Sports Investments. As part of that deal, Qatar Airways now adorns the Blaugrana jerseys, the first time in the club’s history that a for-profit organisation has been afforded sponsorship space on the famous red and blue shirt.

Deloitte noted: “Midway through the 2012-13 campaign, Barcelona look well-set to regain their La Liga title from their arch-rivals Real Madrid, and continued on-pitch success will be crucial as they look to bridge the €29.6m gap at the top of the Money League. Discussions are ongoing concerning the redevelopment of their historic Camp Nou home, and with Real Madrid currently planning enhancements to the Bernabeu, the dominance of Spain’s ‘big two’ at the top of the Money League may continue for some time yet.”


Real Madrid’s annual income is in excess of €100m above that of Manchester United, their rivals in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League, while Barca bring in around €225m more than AC Milan, the team the Catalans will face in the second round of European football’s premier club competition next month.

But those margins remain small in comparison to other sides in Deloitte’s ranking. Valencia, now in 21st position overall, bring in €111.1m  (an incredible €401.5m less than Madrid), while Atletico (in 23rd) amassed €107.9m – little over half of Real’s revenue from broadcasting alone.

Spain’s sides are free to negotiate their own deals from television rights, which allows Madrid and Barcelona to claim a huge cut of the overall share, while other big clubs such as Valencia and Atletico bring in the equivalent of a lesser side in England, Germany or Italy.

“If you look at the list, Spain isn’t represented like the other [big] leagues,” financial expert Jose Maria Gay de Liebana told after last year’s Deloitte rankings.

“Valencia, for example, generate less money through television than a smaller team from England. In other leagues, clubs are compensated equally,” he said. “Money in England and Germany, for example, is distributed fairly and logically, whereas Madrid and Barca are allowed to monopolise the income in Spain.

“That has seen them overshadow their rivals at home – and the same thing is happening on a European level.”

“It is an impressive achievement for Real Madrid to have surpassed €500m in revenue in a single year. Real have led the way in the phenomenal rate of revenue growth among the world’s top clubs”

Dan Jones, Partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte

Little has changed.

So while the rich get richer in Spain, the poor have become poorer. Valencia and Atletico Madrid at least feature just outside the Deloitte Top 20, but there is no place for any other Spanish side within the wealthiest 30 clubs for the 2011-12 timescale. That means Fulham, Sunderland, Galatasaray and Corinthians, to name a few, earn more than Malaga, Athletic Bilbao and the rest of La Liga. The gap is growing into a vast vacuum and with this year’s figures in mind, it is a wonder Atletico can compete at all.

Indeed, it may be a while before anybody else can challenge, because as Real Madrid and Barcelona continue to boost their remarkable revenues, it is at the expense of their domestic rivals: the big boys’ financial force casts a significant shadow over the rest of the Primera Division, which remains largely immersed in depression and debt. This, then, is a story with two very different sides, as while the top two grow ever stronger at home and abroad, La Liga just gets weaker and weaker.

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