The Gap Between Rich And Poor Leagues in European Football is Increasing!
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The Gap Between Rich And Poor Leagues in European Football is Increasing!


Tuğrul Akşar- Tuesday, 1 Oct 2019  According to the Deloitte’s Annual European Football Finance report, which is published for the 28th time, Deloitte has reached to EUR 28,4 billion from EUR 25,5 billion by 11,3% growth comparing with the previous year’s European football market’s total revenues.[1]





Periphery and Center Organization in European Football


Today, the European football economy is composed of center and periphery leagues where central leagues exercise a higher economical and financial power than the periphery. In order to define a better theoretical empirical understanding of this asymmetry of this structure of European football about between the connection periphery and core leagues. Here and after core leagues will be referred to as central leagues.


The leagues we consider as central leagues are the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie-A, and French League1.


As can be seen from the tables below, 54,93 percent of the European football revenues are shared by these leagues, namely the five major leagues, which are defined as central leagues.


Leagues outside the major leagues can be described as the periphery leagues of Europe. 


The majority of the European football revenues is taking place in the Big Five Leagues with EUR 15.6 Billion, namely the British Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie-A and French League 1. While the Big Five Leagues or Central Leagues share the 54,93% of total revenue among them, Peripheral Leagues take the 18,66% of the total revenue.


Comparing with previous season, the share of Central Leagues has increased by 6.12%. The share of Periphery Leagues increased by 8.16%. (Chart 2)


Chart 2) Comparing with Previous Season, The Share of Central and Periphery Leagues




When the revenues of the Central Leagues are consolidated with the revenues of the Lower Leagues, the total revenues of the Central Leagues reach EUR 18.2 billion and their total share increases to 64.08%. Total revenues of Periphery Leagues occurred to EUR 10.2 Billion, while the share of Peripheral League was 35.92%.


Chart 3) Revenues of the Central leagues and Periphery Leagues



In terms of consolidated revenue growth, comparing with previous season Central Leagues’ revenue growth is 4%, while Peripheral Leagues’ was 27.5%.


The Big Five Has Drawn Away (a Big Time)!


In the last five years, central leagues' financial superiority has increased and today, it is impossible to lay low this empire. Financial superiority has brought sportive domination along. Hence, we can see the sportive superiority of the big fives against Peripheral Leagues in Champions League and Europe League clearly in UEFA organizations.


Last five seasons’ Central Leagues financial evolutions can be seen in table 4. According to the table, revenues of Central Leagues have increased from EUR 13,4 billion to EUR 17,9 billion.


There is an inevitable financial superiority of Central Leagues in Premier League. It is estimating that English Premier League will finalize the 2019-20 season with EUR 5490 MM. There is a EUR 2 billion gap between its closest rival Bundesliga. The reason of this difference growth comes from the increase in the broadcasting rights of the Premier League.


Chart 4) ‘Big five’ European league clubs’ revenue – 2015/16 to 2019/20 (€m)





The Gap is Growing with the Increasing Revenue of Premier League Broadcasting Rights


Revenue of Central Leagues in 2017-18 and the composition of the revenues are in Chart 5. As can be seen from the table, revenue of British Premier League is EUR 5.440 MM, in season of 2017-18. Bundesliga is following the Premier League with EUR 3.168 MM, in the 3rd place there is Spanish La Liga with EUR 3.073 MM. Italian Serie-A is in the 4th place with EUR 2.217 MM in central League and French League 1 is in the 5th place with EUR 1.692 MM income. 


Chart 5) 'Big five’ European league clubs’ revenue – 2017/18 (€m)




British Premier League has the financial superiority in Central Leagues with EUR 3.210 MM revenue of broadcasting. This superiority is also reflected in the sporting field. As a matter of fact, in the 2018-19 season, four British clubs played both in the Champions League and in the European League and turned the Champions League and the European League into the Premier League. Liverpool-Tottenham played the Champions League Final and Chelsea and Arsenal played the European League final. Liverpool and Chelsea played the Super Cup final in Istanbul on August 14, 2019.59% of the Premier League’s total revenue (EUR 5.4 billion) comes from the sale of broadcasting rights. 


In this context, the Premier League's broadcasting revenues reaching EUR 3.210 MM are three times the French League 1, one and half times the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie-A and 1 time the Spanish La Liga. 


British Clubs Earn More Than Other Central League Teams


As can be seen from the table 5, British clubs earn the most with an average income of EUR 272 MM per club, 54,5% more than Bundesliga, 76,6% more than La Liga team, 145% more than Serie-A team and 220% more than Lig 1 teams.


While the German fill the tribunes more than the other teams averagely with 43.789 per game, they are also way ahead from other teams in terms of premier league match day revenues. According to the calculations on the table above, the British are in the 1st place at match day revenues with EUR 38.625 per average spectator. The Spanish are in the 2nd place with EUR 35.712. Although the German are in the second place in terms of occupancy rate of stadium averagely (about) 90%, they are in the 4th place in Central Leagues with EUR 19.872 revenue. The Italian are on the 3rd place with EUR 27.926 revenue and the French are in the last place with EUR 151.149.


As a result, if the level of the stadium occupancy rate can maximize average match day revenue per audience, then, this ratio may become more significant.


Brits Are a Step Ahead in Business Income


We can see in table 6 that Premier League has the superiority among Central Leagues in both broadcast rights, match day revenues but also business revenues too.


Chart 6) ‘Big five’ leagues’ commercial revenue 2003/04 to 2017/18 (€m)



According to table 6, British Premier League is in the 1st place with EUR 1.473 MM income. Brits are followed by the German with EUR 1.382 MM, the Spanish with EUR 954 MM, the Italian with EUR 710 MM and the French with EUR 666 MM.


During the last 8 years, the Brits have increased their business income by 163% from EUR 560 MM to EUR 1.473 MM, while the German have increased their business income by 174% and reached EUR 1.382 MM. While other Central leagues’ business incomes are below EUR 1 billion, French Lig 1 is the one with the lowest business income with EUR 666 MM.


British Football industry is in the first place in creating business income besides broadcasting and match day revenues.


Brits are a step ahead in Spending


The British are in the first place in not only making money, but also spending it in the Central Leagues.


Chart 7 shows us that Premier League distributes the 59% of the EUR 5.440 MM that has been earned as salary to players. British clubs which make averagely EUR 272 MM per clubs, pay EUR 161 MM of that amount as wage and salary to players, and this cause to best players and football coaches to go to England.


Chart 7: ‘Big five’ European league clubs’ revenue and wage costs – 2016/17 and 2017/18 (€m)



According to chart 7, the total number of salary and wage which British clubs pay to their players reach to EUR 3.217 MM. Spanish La Liga is the 2nd one who pays salary and wage the most to their players after Premier League with EUR 2013 MM and it is followed by the German. Although, in every condition, it is visible that the salary and wage paid to players is above EUR 1 billion in central leagues. The lowest wage-salary / income ratio is German Bundesliga with 53% and the highest is French lig 1 with 75%. 


The Most Profitable Clubs Are in Premier League


Premier league does not let the leadership to others on increasing the revenues steadily. By looking at table 8, it is clear that British clubs increased their profitability geometrically but steadily specially after season 2012-13. Premier League clubs generated EUR 1.297 MM profit in 2016-17 season, while this amount decreased to EUR 979 MM under 1 Billion Euro in 2017-18 season.


On the other hand, comparing to other Central Leagues, it is seen from table 8 that there is a difference of more than EUR 600 MM between the operating profits created by English clubs and other leagues.


In the last decade, British clubs have increased their operating profits by nine and half times to EUR 979 Million. This is a great accomplishment. Even though we can not observe the increased performance of operating profit in Premier League, we know that German clubs make EUR 373 MM, Spanish clubs make EUR 226 MM and Italian clubs make 54 MM profit.


While 19 out of 20 clubs can make operating profit, 13 clubs have pre-tax profitability. [2]


We only see UEFA financial fair play (FFP) application in Premier League as the most positive impact of club and league profitability. The table above shows us that the UEFA FFP application, which has been implemented since 2013-14 season, enters a tight financial discipline of the Premier League. It does not seem accurate to explain this development only with the increase in income. Naturally, in spite of the increase in revenues, expenses and related losses in football economy increase faster. We observe that the Premier League has used / managed the revenue growth very well in financially profitable clubs


Chart 8: ‘Big five’ European league clubs’ profitability – 2008/09 to 2017/18 (€m)



Russia is Getting Ahead in Periphery Leagues


In the Periphery Leagues, Russia holds the economic and financial leadership with the EUR 813 MM revenue. While the most important revenue resource in Russian League is sponsorship incomes (61%), in Peripheral Leagues the highest broadcast income is in Super League with EUR 376 MM.


While 51.4% of the total revenues in the Super League consists of broadcast revenues, the share of sponsorship and commercial revenues is 33% and match day revenues are 11%. As such, the average income per club in the Super League, which ranked 7th after the Russian league, is EUR 41 MM.


Chart 9) Development of Periphery League Clubs’ Revenues – 2017/18 (€m)




Unbalanced and Unfair Competition Became Permanent Against Peripheral Leagues!


The fact that the Periphery Leagues fall behind the Central Leagues in competition is essentially the result of a conscious policy that UEFA has followed for years…


Although UEFA has declared that it aims to protect the Small Leagues against the Big Leagues with the Financial Fair Play application, the experimental results have shown us that this goal has not been achieved, on the contrary, the Peripheral Leagues have been far behind in the unbalanced and unfair competition between the leagues and it increased on the behalf of the Central Leagues. We observe this result in both economic and financial area but also in sportive area. Since the quarter finals in the Champions League, which is the number one cup of European football, there is almost no Periphery League team, which is showing us that the competition is lost in terms of balance.




Consequence1: Leagues that do not have a sustainable financial structure are falling back in competition and they will continue to fall!


Deloitte's latest report gives us important clues not only about the finances of clubs but also about their economic and financial management.


First of all, I should mention that the leagues that do not have a solid financial structure will fall back and / or continue to fall even further within the structure of today's unfair competition. The existing unfair competition structure, Peripheral Leagues which do not have sustainable financial structure, will push back further Peripheral Leagues in competition with the Central Leagues in all areas. The fact that leagues are not left behind in competition seems to depend on whether they can establish sustainable financial structure. In general, the realization of such a financial structure on the basis of Clubs is one of the primary and mandatory duties of the football authority of that country.


In this context, the most important task and priority aim of the football authority is to create a healthy financial structure by creating a sustainable income increase in a league. Unfortunately, achieving sustainable growth in a league does not seem to be possible by simply increasing the broadcast revenue. Other sources of income must be created. It is an inevitable necessity to use the increased income in a productive manner, to increase the competitive structure of the league and to improve the quality of football. We can see this clearly in the Premier League example.


It is very important to increase the quality of football in a league and to have a sustainable financial structure in order not to fall back from the Central Leagues level and to prevent further breaks in the Peripheral Leagues. [2]


Consequence 2: The gap between the rich and the poor grows!


According to Deloitte's latest report, the EUR 18.2 billion share of the European Football paste of EUR 28.4 billion in the Big Five Leagues corresponds to 64.08% of the total revenue. The remaining part, 35.92%, has been shared by other 49 leagues share. 


More specifically, in the Big Five Leagues, the share of the average revenue per league is 12.82%, whereas in Peripheral Leagues it is around 0,07% (seven per thousand). This situation clearly shows how the competition in European football has been transformed into unfair competition in favor of the elders.


Hegemony of European football in the Central Leagues continues to increase. Reaching more revenue, increasing their wealth on the basis of football, the Central Leagues, has a very competitive position. The only responsible for the creation of this structure is UEFA… The boss of European football, ‘I will establish competition in balance’ has stabilized unbalanced competition. This structure gives the Central Leagues a sporty and financial advantage. As long as UEFA continues to dominate the hegemonic domination of the Central Leagues in European football, the Peripheral Leagues do not seem to be successful in economic, financial and sporting terms.


The result is that UEFA should share a more balanced structure in the sharing of European football pie. Otherwise, it will cause the death of football in the medium and long term.


Result 3: Financial Polarization Creates Unfair Competition


Financial polarization means that clubs are divided into two poles, rich and poor, due to the deep gaps between their income. The reflection of financial polarization on green fields is in the form of uneven competition. Unbalanced competition, with the effect of financial polarization, turns into unfair competition in the process and works against low-budgeted, weak teams. Unfair competition can be seen in the comparative values of the team ranks, incomparable annual expense budgets, and financial credibility which causes the funding opportunity to be limited.


Unfair and unbalanced competition make the hegemony increase further in the Five Big Leagues of European football and turns the Peripheral Leagues into buttress which only maintain the status. Unfair competition provides an environment and opportunity for the accumulation of wealth of the Central Leagues and the permanent instability of unbalanced competition against the Peripheral Leagues.


We saw the most aggressive and clear example of this season in the Champions League and the European League. In Champions League, Liverpool and Tottenham and in European League, Chelsea and Arsenal playing the final match is nothing but a reflection of negative consequences to green fields.


Exactly five years ago, I wrote the following lines again in a Deloitte report analysis. I have seen that since then, as everything is same in terms of change and progress in Peripheral Leagues, on the other hand, the gap between the rich (Central Leagues) and poor (Peripheral Leagues) has grown. It doesn't look like it's going to catch up anymore.


“The leagues who have reached the superiority of unfair competition on the basis of unbalanced competition, can use this advantageous situation in their favor and build strong teams with a value of EUR billions and form a hegemony in the sports arena. But, peripheral clubs which are lacking the depth of squad and budget size to challenge their rivals are only required by status… Financial polarization makes unbalanced competition between clubs and turns it a permanent unfair competition. It creates rich and highly competitive teams, but again, clubs with low budgets and poor competitiveness. Overall, the excessive income generated as a result of unfair competition, the summary of this situation, is the financialization of football. In other words, excessive income generated as a result of unfair competition turns into a wealth increase among Central Leagues, leading to an increase in wealth accumulation.” [4] 





[1] ‘’Annual Review of Football Finance 2019 Europe’s premier leagues’’


[2]‘’Annual Review of Football Finance 2019 Europe’s premier leagues’’, sh.20. 


[3] Tuğrul Akşar, Futbolun Ekonomi Politik Sorunları-I, 11 Kasım 2014,


[4] Tuğrul Akşar, Futbolun Ekonomi Politik Sorunları-II, 18 Kasım 2014,






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