Spanish masters riding high in the money league

March 3, 2010

SOCCER-SPAIN/Deloitte’s latest survey of the world’s richest soccer clubs, entitled “Spanish Masters”, highlights how the dominance enjoyed by the top two, Real Madrid and Barcelona, largely depends on them raking in around half the available income from La Liga broadcast rights.

A glance at the current league table in Spain shows how this affects the domestic league, with champions Barca leading on 61 points and Real second on 59, 13 ahead of third-placed Valencia with 24 out of 38 matches played.

The only other Spanish side to make it into the top 30 in Deloitte’s ranking were Atletico Madrid, currently 11th in the La Liga standings, with annual income of around a quarter of their two giant peers.

Mark Elkington asked recently in this blog whether it was time for Spain to introduce a system of collective bargaining and revenue sharing similar to the one used in rival European leagues.

But, as Deloitte suggest in their report, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon and Barca president Joan Laporta told Reuters in a recent interview the club were unwilling to accept such a system as he said it would weaken their competitiveness in Europe.

“Time will tell whether the current speculation on the subject will turn into real pressure on the Spanish league to move towards a collective model for the sale of broadcast rights, particularly given that it will be the only ‘big five’ league to have an individual sales model from 2010/11,” Deloitte wrote. “It seems certain that the big two clubs would resist such a change.”

The firm’s latest annual survey showed Real became the first team in any sport to post revenues in excess of 400 million euros ($541 million) in a single year in the 2008/09 season.

With income of 401.4 million euros, Real topped the “Football Money League” report for a fifth straight year.

Barca overtook Manchester United, who were hit by the weak pound, to move to second, and posted the largest absolute increase, with the club’s revenue rising by 57 million euros to 366 million euros.

Real and Barca each earned around 160 million from broadcast revenue alone, compared with United’s 117.1 million.

“Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have created a clear revenue gap between themselves and their European competitors, and look set to contest the top two positions in the Money League for the foreseeable future, particularly if the pound doesn’t strengthen against the euro,” according to Alan Switzer, a director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

The status quo in Spain may look good for Real and Barca right now, but if their domestic rivals increasingly cannot afford to buy and pay the best players might they not regret it over the longer term?

Real Madrid players celebrate Gonzalo Higuain’s goal against Tenerife in their La Liga match in Santa Cruz, February 27, 2010. REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero.

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