Analysis: Manchester United revel in profit - but will the future be so bright for the Premier League champions?
Britain's most global football brand posted record results yesterday
Thursday 19 September 2013
The departure of one of the world's most famous football managers Sir Alex Ferguson and the club's early exit from last year's Champions League has not dented Manchester United's off-the-pitch revenue- raising potential.
Britain's most iconic global football brand saw revenues rise a whopping 13.4 per cent to £363.2m in the year till June, propelled by a dramatic upswing in commercial revenues.
Deals with sponsors such as US carmaker Chevrolet, which will become the club's shirt sponsor next season, were behind United seeing its income from commercial activities rise by 30 per cent in the past year.
In total, the club now earns 42 per cent of its income from such commercial deals, dwarfing the amount made through television and money generated on match day.
In fact, Manchester United's off-the-pitch activities are now so big as to nearly equal the combined commercial revenues generated by the next two biggest British clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Manchester United's success in the commercial sphere is seeing it once again close the financial gap on Spanish giants Real Madrid, which operates a policy of signing galacticos – star-name footballers such as Gareth Bale who drive shirt sales and sponsorship deals.
A recent Deloitte report into the world's biggest football clubs placed Manchester United in second spot with a worth of $3.16bn (£1.97bn), just a shade off Madrid's $3.3bn.
Barcelona were placed third by Deloitte's but predicted on Tuesday that revenues this year would top €500m (£418m) for the first time, closely behind United's forecast for the year of £420m-£430m.
The man at Manchester United widely credited with this huge expansion in commercial activity and negotiating bumper deals is Ed Woodward, the new chief executive and former commercial director.
On on announcing to the New York Stock Exchange the bumper rise in revenue, Mr Woodward said: "We are very proud of our results for fiscal 2013. It has been a little over a year since our IPO (initial public offering) and in that time we have delivered on our targets and objectives. Our commercial business continues to be a very powerful engine of growth enabling the team to continue to be successful."
But all is not rosy at the Red Devils. Mr Woodward's new role has seen him take charge of transfer dealing at the club, and despite the £27m arrival of Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini, United have been widely castigated for missing out on a host of high-profile targets, including Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas.
The football community has been quick to condemn Mr Woodward for being a wide-eyed innocent in the cut and thrust world of European football and that signing players and dealing with agents was a bit different to flogging sponsored shirts.
What's more, new manager David Moyes is seen very much as unproven, leading to some observers to question if the success secured by Sir Alex Ferguson can continue with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and even perennial hated rivals Liverpool all putting a strong case for claiming United's English Premier League crown.
As ever it's what happens when the players cross the white line which will dictate if United can reach their revenue forecasts and overtake the Spanish giants once again.
"Since the listing, Sir Alex Ferguson has retired and David Moyes hired as new manager – plenty of worries in the market about how this may impact Manchester United stock," said Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital.
"We can't tell for another year as these figures reflect Ferguson's leadership, but if the club finish third in the English Premier League and reach the quarter finals in the Champions League, it's likely they will reach full-year targets.
"This all means more pressure on Moyes to follow the success of his much-loved predecessor. Much is now dependent on success on the pitch," he added.
And success on the pitch – no longer a given – is still vital to a business which is weighed down with the debts accrued during its takeover by the Glazer family.
Although the strong revenue performance outlined on Wednesday did allow the club to refinance nearly £200m of debt and reduce its interest payments by £10m a year, the club still spends £70.8m a year in servicing its borrowings.
Ultimately, only continued success on the pitch in the post-Ferguson era will see the club pay this debt down further and continue to attract the sort of sponsorship deals negotiated by Mr Woodward.
It's over to you then David Moyes.
How they compare: The big three
Real Madrid Estimated by Deloitte to be the first club to rake in revenues of more than €500m, Madrid is the most valuable club in the world. Owned by its fans, it sold its training ground in the noughties, paid off debt and bought big-name players.
Barcelona Also owned by its members, its regular success in winning La Liga helped it secure sponsorship by the Qatar Foundation worth an average of €330m a season until the end of the 2015-16 season. Merchandising sales are second to none.
Manchester United Was the world's biggest-earning football club from 1996-7 to 2003-4 but failed to match the growth of the Spanish giants. Has signed a groundbreaking tie-up with General Motors' worth €54m in the first full season (2014-15).
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