The first year of the Premier League’s record £8.4bn television deals, combined with financial regulations aimed at preventing the bulk of the money being paid to players and agents, has transformed England’s top 20 clubs overwhelmingly into profit. The Guardian’s analysis of the clubs’ most recently published accounts, for the 2016-17 season and financial year, found that 17 clubs made a profit, on record revenues of more than £4.5bn.
The clubs’ booming financial health under the 2016-19 broadcasting deals puts into perspective the current demands of the richest six clubs for yet more money, from a greater share of the international TV income, which is shared equally among all 20. That demand, led by Liverpool and Manchester City and said to be supported by Manchester U
The accounts show that these top six clubs are already on a different financial plane from all the others. Spurs, the sixth highest-earning club in 2016-17, made £306m, £73m more than the next highest, Leicester City, whose £233m revenues were boosted by £70m from their one-off participation in the Champions League, after winning the title in 2015-16. Manchester United, despite not winning the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, have levels of sponsorship and earnings from the 76,000-capacity Old Trafford that made them by far the highest-earning club, making £581m in 2016-17, despite not competing in the Champions League that season.
United’s earnings were £108m more than those of the second highest-earning club, Manchester City, whose £473m revenues were boosted by £218m commercial income including substantial sponsorship from state-owned companies in Abu Dhabi, the homeland of Sheikh Mansour, the club’s owner.
The total earnings of £4.5bn are 25% up on the £3.6bn the 20 clubs made the year before, 2015-16, the last of the previous three-year TV deals, which was itself a record. The current TV deals – £5.1bn in the UK from the real competition posed to BSkyB last time from BT Sport, and £3.3bn from burgeoning international broadcast contracts – have made the Premier League Europe’s most lucrative league by a greater margin. The German Bundesliga, the next wealthiest, with full stadiums and a generally admired supporter-friendly culture, has new TV deals worth €4.64bn (£3.9bn) over the next four years, less than half the total the Premier League expects to secure for 2019-22.
The Premier League clubs’ management of the huge TV revenues has been dramatically improved by the introduction of the financial regulations that limit clubs’ losses and the amounts by which they can increase their wage bills. In the 2016-17 season, clubs could not pay more than £19m above the wages figure of 2012-13. Alternatively, the rules limited the increase in wages clubs could pay from Premier League TV and sponsorship money to £7m more than the previous year, 2015-16.
The 19 clubs’ total revenues were a record £4.4bn. Although Palace have not filed their accounts and have provided no reason for the delay, the Premier League did publish the amount of TV and sponsorship money in “central distributions” paid to each club, showing that Palace received £110m. That means the 20 clubs’ total revenues is certain to have been more than £4.5bn, although the details of Palace’s other income and spending are yet to be disclosed.