The Middle East is playing a central part in growing European football revenues - particularly the English Premier League (EPL), according to Deloitte.
The Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance 2016 found that the region was contributing significantly in terms of both broadcast revenue and commercial partnerships.
“The Middle East continues to play an important part in this story both at a club and league level,” said Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.
“Commercial partnerships with Middle East-based sponsors are some of the most lucrative in the game, with three of the top five revenue generating clubs having Middle-East based shirt sponsors.
“Equally the region is contributing to the significant increase in English Premier League broadcast revenue, with 9 per cent of the next cycle’s international rights fees coming from broadcasters in the Mena region.”
Emirates sponsored-Real Madrid topped the global list for highest revenue for the 2014/15 season (the most recent available data), with FC Barcelona, sponsored by Qatar Airways, in second and Paris St Germain, also backed by Emirates, in fourth.
In terms of football shirt sponsorship, the UAE has lead the way for two seasons running. In March, The Repucom European Football Jersey Report said that Arabian Gulf airlines spent Dh670 million putting their names on shirts, including those of Arsenal and Manchester City.
“Football is still the cheapest advertising there is if you want visibility,” said Boutros Boutros, the divisional senior vice president for corporate communications and marketing at Emirates.
Meanwhile, Deloitte’s study said that the European football market totalled US$26 billion in 2014/15, driven by the “big five” European leagues (Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A).
A 3 per cent revenue increase in 2014/15 saw the EPL further extend its lead as the highest revenue generating league in the world, with total revenue of $5.3bn. It also now leads the football world in all three key revenue categories, having overtaken the Bundesliga as the highest generator of commercial revenue in 2014/15.
Broadcast revenue across the big five European leagues grew by 8 per cent in 2014/15, and at $6.9bn represented 48 per cent of total revenues of the big five leagues.
“Another year of growth for Europe’s leading leagues helps to re-emphasise that the best live football remains ‘premium content’ for broadcasters and that commercial partners will pay handsomely to be associated with Europe’s elite clubs given their global profile and mass appeal,” said Mr Jones.
The Middle East’s financial clout in European football could be joined by a new major player on the scene.
There has been an increased level of interest in the sport from Chinese stakeholders during the past 12 months, with China Media Capital acquiring a minor stake in City Football Group in December. City Football Group owns Manchester City, as well as New York City FC and Melbourne FC. The sale of the stake was worth $400m.
Aston Villa, relegated from the EPL last month, also announced their sale to China’s Recon Group.
“The ownership of a successful European club has long been seen by many as a global trophy asset, providing owners with an enhanced business profile and access to important relationships,” Deloitte said in its report.
“This, considered with the additional political goodwill towards football within China, will no doubt further increase the attractiveness of Europe’s clubs to Chinese investors.”
Follow The National's Business section on Twitter