Manchester United income soars in football rich list

Manchester United’s dominance of English football, on and off the pitch, is underlined today with the release of a financial survey that shows a £45m leap in United’s year-on-year income. Thanks in large part to last season’s Premier League and Champions League double, United’s turnover grew by 21 per cent in the 2007-08 season to £257.1m.

This makes United by far the highest-earning club in Britain, ahead of Chelsea (in second place, with income of £212.9m in the same period), Arsenal (£209.3m) and Liverpool (£167m).

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The figures are revealed in the latest Football Money League report by Deloitte, in a survey that shows Real Madrid remain the world’s richest club in terms of revenue, ahead of United in second, then Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea.

Only a drastic slump in the value of sterling has prevented United from reclaiming the title of “world’s richest club” from Real. Real Madrid’s income for 2007-08 rose a relatively modest four per cent to 365.8m euros, or £289.6m when converted at the June 2008 exchange rate of £1 = 1.2632 euros. United’s income at the same rate equated to 324.8m euros.

But sterling has crashed significantly, and if Deloitte had used the same exchange rate as in their previous report (£1 = 1.4856 euros, from June 2007), United’s latest income would have been 381.9m euros against Real’s 365.8m euros.

One of the most intriguing aspects of today’s report is that Deloitte, rather than the clubs themselves, has become the vehicle of choice for headline income figures to be released. United will provide more details of their results in due course, including data on large profits, but Chelsea are expected to remain conspicuously quiet this week about their own results.

A press conference and briefing, scheduled for Friday, has been indefinitely shelved, and it is understood that this is partly because of the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari. His pay-off, of around £7.5m, would not have been in the 2007-08 accounts but would have prompted embarrassing questions about Chelsea’s huge and ongoing losses.

An annual loss of £74.8m in 2006-07 on turnover of £190.5m meant the club had posted cumulative losses of £384m in four years. Haemorrhaging of money at such levels has always heaped ridicule on the long-standing claims of Chelsea’s chief executive, Peter Kenyon, that the club can break even by 2010. Yet further losses in the tens of millions are expected in the 2007-08 figures. And combined with the latest change in manager and wobble in form (and the financial ramifications of both) any suggestions of financial self-sufficiency soon are hollow jokes, as, increasingly, are Kenyon and Roman Abramovich themselves.

As the Deloitte report points out, Chelsea’s annual income growth of 12 per cent (£22.4m) in 2007-08 was driven mainly by increased TV cash, “but the club needs new successes with its match day and commercial revenues to deliver future growth and keep pace with its biggest European rivals.”