The scale of the matchday revenue challenge facing football clubs has been illustrated vividly in the latest edition of Deloitte’s annual Football Money League rankings, with seven of the top 20 clubs experiencing a fall in such income in the 2018-19 season.

The report, which highlighted how the sluggish matchday revenue performances contrasted with only three of the top 20 having registered a fall in either broadcast or commercial income, stressed the need for clubs to “sharpen their focus on maximising the revenue streams under their control” given ongoing uncertainty about future media-rights deals.

Four of the seven clubs – Manchester City (6th overall), Chelsea (9th), Arsenal (11th) and Everton (19th) – were from the English Premier League (EPL) and registered a decrease in matchday revenue of between €2m and €7m year-on-year, although Everton will be confident that a proposed move to a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock in the coming years will provide a significant boost.

With a compound annual growth rate of just 4% for matchday revenue in the Football Money League table between 2013-14 and 2018-19 – in comparison with 8% CAGR for commercial income – the struggles were not just confined to England though. AS Roma (16th) and Napoli (20th) from Italy’s Serie A were also among those to fall in the matchday income stakes, while German Bundesliga giant Bayern Munich (4th) registered the sharpest drop in the top 20, with an earlier-than-expected exit from the UEFA Champions League leading to an 11% decline totalling €11.4m.

Neither Barcelona (1st) nor Spanish LaLiga rival Real Madrid (2nd) reached the Champions League final for the first time in six seasons, but the clubs still occupied the top two spots in the Football Money League, with the Catalan giant racing to the top of the standings for the first time by surpassing the €800m revenue barrier overall.

The report showed that Barcelona’s matchday revenue grew steadily by 35.9% between 2015 and 2019 to €159.2m, with the ongoing Espai Barça project, which includes the Nou Camp stadium, set to provide a further increase in the coming years. Real’s matchday revenue increased more modestly over the same period, rising by 11.5% to €144.8m in 2019.

As a proportion of total income, matchday revenues for Barcelona and Real reached 19% – a higher percentage than any other clubs in the top 10.

However, despite the lack of European silverware for Barcelona and Real Madrid, there were also Champions League success stories in the top 20.

The EPL’s Tottenham Hotspur (8th), which moved into its stunning new stadium just weeks before reaching the 2018-19 Champions League final, posted a rise in matchday income from €85m to €93m, with the report stating that the figure is likely to rise above €100m in the 2019-20 campaign.

Liverpool (7th), which beat Tottenham in the final, was hailed in the report for hosting summer concerts at Anfield for the first time since 2008 “in a bid to develop the stadium into a genuine year-round visitor attraction” while the main stand redevelopment project, which was completed in 2016, helped to boost matchday income at the club by 26.7% between 2015 and 2019. Liverpool, which is planning a further expansion of the stadium to increase Anfield’s capacity above 61,000, posted a year-on-year rise in matchday revenue of €3m to €95m in 2019.

Meanwhile Serie A’s Inter Milan (14th) capitalised on improved performances and a return to the Champions League by almost doubling season ticket revenue to €18.6m from €9.3m. The club’s overall increase in matchday revenue of €15.6m (44%) was the most substantial increase in the top 20, although Serie A rival Juventus (10th) and French Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain (6th) also posted significant rises of about €15m year-on-year.

The long-term impact of a new stadium move was shown in the standings by LaLiga’s Atletico Madrid (13th). Since moving in 2017 to the Wanda Metropolitano (pictured), which hosted the 2019 Champions League final, Atletico’s matchday income has increased by 44%, from €41m to €59m.

Deloitte acknowledged in the study that boosting matchday revenues “will not be simple”. The financial services provider added: “Most major European clubs already have full stadia which are extremely expensive and/or difficult to expand or replace and pressure from their fan base limits the ability to successfully increase ticket prices.

“We therefore believe it will be those clubs that think and act most creatively and expansively to realise the full value of their fan base that will improve their placing in the Money League in future editions.”

Deloitte Football Money League 2018-19 rankings / club / change from 2018 versus 2019 matchday revenue:

1 – Barcelona (up €145m to €159m)

2 – Real Madrid (up €143m to €145m)

3 – Manchester United (up €120m to €121m)

4 – Bayern Munich (down €104m to €92m)

5 – Paris Saint-Germain (up €101m to €116m)

6 – Manchester City (down €64m to €62m)

7 – Liverpool (up €92 to €95m)

8 – Tottenham Hotspur (up €85m to 93m)

9 – Chelsea (down €83m to €76m)

10 – Juventus (up €51m to €66m)

11 – Arsenal (down €112m to €109m)

12 – Borussia Dortmund (up €57m to €60m)

13 – Atletico Madrid (up €57m to €59m)

14 – Inter Milan (up €35m to €51m)

15 – Schalke 04 (up €47m to €54m)

16 – AS Roma (down €35m to €32m)

17 – Olympique Lyonnais (up €37m to €42m)

18 – West Ham United (up €28m to €31m)

19 – Everton (down €19m to €17m)

20 – Napoli (down €19m to €16m)

Image: fernandopascullo