Manchester United see commercial revenue rise

Manchester United look certain to be the first Premier League club to break the £100million barrier for commercial revenue alone.

The most recent three-monthly accounts showed revenues rising to £24million over the first quarter of the accounting year, and it is thought the second, up to December 31, will be equally strong.

United's new 'territory specific' approach to commercial opportunities, agreed with the Glazer family and implemented by commercial director Richard Arnold, has allowed the Old Trafford outfit to rapidly expand that area of club revenue.

The last annual figures showed a 16% growth in commercial income to £81million and last week global logistics giant DHL became the latest company to confirm an extended "partnership" with the Old Trafford outfit, their three-year deal allowing them to take charge of the distribution of United's massive merchandising operation.

Even if United do not get to the £100million mark this year, it is only a matter of time before they make it, emphasising just how popular the club remains as it pushes towards a record 19th league championship.

And with revenue streams continuing to grow in other sectors, chief executive David Gill is confident that the spread across all three areas; media, matchday and commercial means United are insulated against future problems in other areas.

"One of the strengths of this club compared to others is that we get income from all revenue streams," he said.

"Our match day revenue is around 40% of our overall turnover, we are part of a great competition in the Premier League that continues to grow and the commercial sector has gone up from 20% to 30%.

"That will stand us in very good stead. They are all high margins and will continue to give us the money Sir Alex Ferguson needs to keep the club at the top. There is a strong desire within our great supporter base for that to happen."

To place United's financial strength into context, rapidly rising neighbours Manchester City made 11th place in last year's football 'rich-list' and their overall turnover was only £125million.

There are issues looming though, not all of which United have control over.

Legal arguments over distribution rights for TV companies could yet revolutionise the way football is sold, which in turn might have a major impact on the cash companies such as BSkyB and ESPN are prepared to hand over to the Premier League.

Closer to home, speculation about a potential £1.6million takeover bid from Qatar lingers, even though the club response remains the same.

"We have received no approach and no approach would be welcome," said a United spokesman. "The club is not for sale."

It has always been felt that the Glazer family would be willing to unload United if the price was right and the sums being suggested would double their money following their own buyout in 2005, that has brought controversy and supporter anger in equal measure.

Sir Alex Ferguson has remained apart from this, though, managing to deliver three Premier League titles, two Champions League final appearances and a couple of Carling Cups.

And, presumably due to his vast experience, he does not feel any pressure to maintain that success - even though he desperately wants to.

"The name of Manchester United carries great weight throughout the world," he said.

"If you look back, the club were not having the greatest time, but it still had the biggest crowds.

"There is fantastic romance attached to Manchester United. You can't beat it.

"But success is important for the expectations of this club; myself, the players and the staff.

"We don't just want to be a nice little club. If we don't have success as well, we will get criticised."