Manchester City showed the strongest revenue growth of all football teams globally, after winning the English Premier league for the first time in 44 years.
Owned by Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, City's earnings were bolstered by an enhanced sponsorship agreement with Etihad Airways, the business services group Deloitte said yesterday.
Despite higher revenues, City still lost almost £100 million (Dh581.7m) last season.
“Manchester City’s Premier League title-winning season, combined with participation in the UEFA Champions League, helped drive 51 per cent revenue growth to €285.6 million [Dh1.39 billion], the largest absolute and relative growth of any Money League club,” said Deloitte’s Austin Houlihan.
“The club’s progress to the top of the English and European game means that they are set to remain a top 10 Money League club for the foreseeable future.”
Real Madrid and rivals Barcelona proved that passion for Spanish soccer remains undimmed despite the country's financial crisis, cementing their places as the highest revenue earners in the world's most popular sport.
Madrid, which won the Spanish league last May for the 32nd time, became the first club in any sport to generate more than €500m in annual revenues, Deloitte said in its annual Football Money League for 2011-12.
The perennial Spanish rivals retain loyal domestic support, attracting crowds in excess of 80,000 despite Spain’s recession and high unemployment.
A global fan base also helps them to sign up lucrative international sponsorship deals.
The Spanish duo have the advantage of doing their own television deals rather than selling collectively through a league as their main European rivals do.
The downside is that it has added to a polarisation in Spanish soccer where many other clubs are struggling to stay afloat.
England's Manchester United was in third spot behind the Spanish duo despite a fallow season in which the club failed to win a trophy for the first time since 2005.
Germany's Bayern Munich was fourth, followed by Champions League winner Chelsea and Premier League rivals Arsenal.
"An unchanged top six emphasises the fact that these clubs have some of the largest fan bases and hence strongest revenues, in both domestic and international markets," said Dan Jones, a partner in the sports business group at Deloitte.
The growing commercialisation of fooball has led to a debate about whether the people’s game has become too expensive for fans and whether clubs have lost touch with their local communities as they chase revenues around the globe.
Big-spending clubs face pressure to boost revenues to avoid falling foul of rules being introduced by the Union of European Football Associations, European soccer’s governing body,which mean they must move towards break-even or risk exclusion from top continental competitions. In total, the earnings of the 20 clubs rose 10 per cent to €4.8bn in 2011-12, underlining how top European teams are still commanding big fees from pay TV companies and corporate sponsors despite a tough economic climate.
The leading 20 clubs accounted for more than a quarter of all revenues in the European soccer market, illustrating the gulf between rich and poor in the sport.
Deloitte reviews football clubs around the globe but all the clubs in the top 20 were drawn from just five European leagues.
England's Premier League, the world's richest thanks to its domestic and international TV deals, is home to seven of the 20. AC Milan, owned by the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi,was the highest ranked of five Italian clubs, while Germany supplied four teams and France two.
* with agencies