No Football team has done as good a job as Manchester United at turning a storied history of success on the pitch into profits.
The Red Devils have won a record 13 titles in the Premier League since the top flight of English football was given that name in 1992. During that time Manchester United has also made it to four Champions League finals, winning in 1999 and 2008.
And now for the first time in five years, Manchester United is the world’s most valuable football team, worth $3.69 billion. The team’s return to the top spot is a testament to their powerful brand and marketing acumen. Manchester United generated revenue of $765 million during the 2015-16 season, $77 million more than both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Manchester United brought in $405 million in advertising and sponsorship revenue, more than any other soccer team. And the Red Devils are also by far the most profitable soccer team in the world, posting operating income of $288 million, $107 million more than runner-up Real Madrid. It will not be easy to overtake the Red Devils in the near future: By winning the Europa League this year, Manchester United qualified for the lucrative 2017-18 Champions League.
The world’s most valuable soccer teams are big businesses because of the popularity of their brands and the sport’s unparalleled global audience. The 20 most valuable soccer teams this year are worth an average of $1.48 billion, 3% more than a year ago. Following Manchester United in value are Barcelona ($3.64 billion), Real Madrid ($3.58 billion), Bayern Munich ($2.71 billion) and Manchester City ($2.08 billion).
All revenues and operating income figures in our table are for the 2015-16 season, converted into U.S. dollars based on average exchange rates for the same period. Team values are enterprise values (equity plus net debt) and are based on exchange rates as of April 24. Operating income is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, player trading and disposal of player registrations. Debt includes stadium debt recourse to the team. Most revenue figures are from Deloitte’s Money League report.
The U.S. dollar rose in value relative to the euro during the past year. As a result, while not a single team declined in value year-over-year when measured in euros, nine of the 20 teams decreased in value when priced in U.S. dollars. Measured in euros, the average team value went up 7% during the past year, to 1.37 billion euros.
England dominates our list with seven teams due to the Premier League having the biggest domestic and international television deals. Big thanks to my colleague, Bobby McMahon, for putting together the table below (term represents the end of season for deals). One-fourth of the distribution of the Premier League’s television money is based on pitch performance.
Another important driver of revenue are shirt and kit sponsorships. Take a look at the table below, courtesy of my colleague Chris Smith. His figures include all signed deals as of June 1 for gameday jersey and kit sponsorships, and naming rights for stadium and training grounds.
The icing on the cake is the Champions League, the richest annual sports event in the world. The Swiss Ramble compiled a table of the top Champions League earners over the past five years, which I show below. For the 2016-17 Champions League, winner Real Madrid will receive $91 million, while runner-up Juventus will earn $117 million. The Spanish team became the first team ever to repeat as Champions League winner by humbling its Italian rival, 4-1.
With top-flight football awash in money, it is not surprising that billionaires own eight of the top 20 most valuable teams. In addition, Inter Milan is owned by Suning, of which 48% is owned by billionaire Zhang Jindong. And Schalke 04 (Clemens Toennies) and Real Madrid (Florentino Perez) have presidents who are billionaires.