The game ain’t what it used to be. Goalkeepers are wearing leggings, strikers are instagramming from private jets, defenders are trying to pass the ball, everything is in flux. To confirm the point, a group of wonks at Uefa published a report this past week analysing the trends in European football, from attendances to commercial revenues and transfer fees. Much of it made for interesting reading. Here are seven of the more striking observations that show how football is changing.
The Championship hits the big leagues
From even a cursory glance of Uefa’s Club Licensing Benchmarking Report what is striking is how much English football dominates the landscape. It’s obvious in things such as wage bills and transfer fees (English clubs pay more and spend more often) but also applies to stuff that has nothing to do with TV money. Stuff such as attendances. According to the report, not only are West Ham the seventh biggest club in Europe (averaging 56,972 spectators a match in 2016-17) but the Championship is the third biggest league. That’s according to aggregate attendance and whereas it’s seventh in average attendance at 20,084, that’s not far off the 20,963 of France’s Ligue 1.
Arsenal: No 1 in Europe
For ticket prices, that is. The Gunners boast an average “yield” per spectator of €97.8. Juventus, meanwhile, take less than half that, at €44.5, and Paris St-Germain just over a third. The figure was calculated by rolling together all different types of ticketing and, once again, English clubs dominate the list. The average gate receipt per person in the Premier League in 2015-16 was €50.1. Again, prices in Italy and France were less than half that.
Inequality is for football too
We’re used to reading about the super-rich getting richer. Well this applies to football as well. The benchmarking report makes reference to what they call “the Global 12”, the biggest clubs in the world who are operating in a different stratosphere to the rest. This is apparent from the cumulative value of players on their books to the size of their internet following. But the clearest distinction between the biggest clubs and the rest is in money earned through sponsorship. While most clubs in Europe’s top divisions generate the majority of their revenue from TV, the very biggest clubs make it from sponsorship. The top 12 clubs take 40% of all sponsorship revenue, an astonishing €2.4bn.
There is an I in team
The report spends a fair few pages looking at football’s digital footprint. And it’s apparent that a player can be bigger than the club. Twelve footballers, for example, have more than 10m Twitter followers. Only five clubs had reached that milestone at the time the report was collated. Barcelona and Real Madrid are by far the most popular clubs on social media. But Cristiano Ronaldo is more popular than either. As clubs focus more of their commercial strategy on digital platforms, this will be a statistic to watch.
Barcelona: mes que un club
One further tidbit to come out of the digital numbers regards La Liga’s giants. When calculating the nationality of visitors to club websites, the report finds that seven of the top eight clubs have more visitors from abroad than from their own country. Barcelona boast the highest percentage in that list with 91% of their visitors coming from overseas. More specifically, Barça’s club site gets 9.5% of it users from the United States, compared with 8.9% from Spain. Truly an international attraction.