The Premier League’s 20 clubs made record revenues of £4.827bn in 2017-18, paying total wages of £2.8bn, the Guardian’s annual analysis of the clubs’ most recently published annual accounts has revealed.
Their combined income, in the second year of the league’s £8.4bn TV deals from 2016-19, confirms the Premier League’s financial dominance over all other leagues in Europe, which has underpinned four of its clubs claiming all the places in next week’s finals of the Champions and Europa League.
Spain’s La Liga declared this month record combined revenues of €4.48bn (£3.86bn), for all 42 clubs in its two divisions for 2017-18, almost £1bn less than the Premier League’s alone. The German Bundesliga announced similar record revenues, €4.42bn (£3.88bn) for all 36 clubs in its two divisions. The gap with English football’s top flight is widening further despite the Europe-wide boom in the game’s popularity and TV income, largely because of the Premier League’s lucrative international TV rights and its top clubs’ European success in itself, which means they earn handsomely from Uefa TV and prize money.
The financial gap between the Premier League, whose clubs’ combined revenues were up more than £300m on the 2016-17 season, and Europe’s other top leagues is one principal motivation for the campaign by the Juventus chairman, Andrea Agnelli, and others in the European Club Association to reshape the competition structures when the agreed calendar ends in 2024. Their efforts, fiercely opposed by the European Leagues group, are focused on expanding the Champions League to give top clubs more prestige matches on a European TV platform, which would bridge the domestic leagues’ revenue gaps.
The clubs’ annual reports also illustrate the Premier League’s own internal gulf between the top-six earners – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – and the rest. United, the highest money-making club, had revenues of £590m, almost four times greater than the £125m made by the two lowest-earning clubs, West Brom and Huddersfield. Spurs, the lowest earners of the top six, still made £381m, almost £200m more than the seventh highest-earning club, Everton.
Breaking into the top six and becoming Premier League champions has cost Manchester City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, £1.3bn since he bought the club in 2008, with hundreds of millions more from Abu Dhabi sponsors. City’s turnover last year was £500m, including £232m in sponsorships, four times the revenues of Watford, whom City beat 6-0 in Saturday’s FA Cup final. City’s wage bill last year was £260m, almost exactly three times Watford’s, which was £86m.
Those six clubs claimed the top six places in the Premier League last season and this season, with a seven-point difference between sixth-placed Arsenal and seventh-placed Burnley in 2017-18. This season sixth-placed United finished nine points ahead of Wolves, whose seventh-place finish has been facilitated by mega-investment from their Chinese owners and their partnership with the agent Jorge Mendes. Wolves’ annual accounts for 2017-18 show that in the season they were promoted from the Championship, the owner, Fosun International, provided £75m in loans, which facilitated a £51m wage bill, almost double the club’s entire turnover of £26.4m, and bankrolled a loss overall of £57m.
Everton, who finished eighth this season, have had that position maintained with loans of £250m from their owner since 2016, Farhad Moshiri, with an expensive new stadium yet to be financed.
That gap between the top six of the Premier League and the rest is also set to widen further from next season, following the six clubs finally wresting more of the league’s international revenues away from the long-established system of sharing them equally between all 20 clubs. Spurs’ new 62,062 stadium, which will substantially increase their matchday revenues, the top clubs’ progress and success in European competition, and the increasing divide in the sponsorship market, are also set to entrench the financial divide.