Sports fans around the world have been excited this month about the return of English Premier League soccer, and it already feels as if the season is fully underway. The top EPL clubs demand attention not just from their own home fan bases but on an international level, making the league one of the most popular in the world, in any sport.
Along with the immense popularity of the EPL, it’s only natural that the league collects an insane amount of wealth. At this point, the worth of the top teams has become fascinating from a business perspective. In particular, the contending clubs in Manchester and London have positioned themselves not only as world-class soccer teams but as lucrative businesses on par with the biggest organizations and leagues in all of world sport.
Here’s a look at how they make their money beyond performance on the field and the sale of tickets and merchandise.
Valued at $3.1 billion, Manchester United remains the wealthiest club in England. According to the latest Forbes list of the world’s most valuable sports teams, they’re the second-richest soccer team behind only Real Madrid. Much of the club’s wealth beyond the field is due to a massive sponsorship deal with Adidas, which will be in control of Man Utd. uniforms and apparel for the next decade as part of a $1.1 billion deal.
A chart designed by the Independent shows that in addition to countless smaller sponsors, Man Utd. has the most expensive shirt sponsor in the EPL by a full £17 million. While Adidas handles the actual design of the uniforms and apparel, Chevrolet is paying £47 million to put its logo front and center on the club’s uniforms!
Arguably the most recognizable English soccer team not named Manchester United, it stands to reason that Chelsea is among the most valuable clubs in the world. Like Man Utd., the club rakes in a great deal of revenue from a kit design deal with Adidas, but its sponsorship also took a significant leap this season thanks to a new shirt sponsorship deal that dwarfs the long-standing previous agreement the club had with Samsung.
As reported by The Guardian, Chelsea reached a £200 million, five-year deal with Yokohama Rubber, a Japanese tire company that now has the second-highest stake in any EPL uniform behind only Chevrolet. The deal more than doubles the £18 million/year pact with Samsung, thus accounting for the latest boost in Chelsea’s wealth and worth.
London’s other true top-tier club, Arsenal is the fourth most valuable of these teams, but only by a small margin. Its £40 million/year deal with Puma for kit designs cannot approach the likes of Man Utd.’s Adidas deal, though the club’s £30 million/year sponsorship agreement with Fly Emirates, a UAE airline with a great deal of cash to spare, is among the biggest deals in the EPL.
Like every other major club, Arsenal supplements its revenue streams with money from smaller sponsors. In that regard, the team secured a particularly creative addition earlier this year that could pay off significantly over the long term. Per SBC News, the Gunners became the latest professional soccer team to partner with an online sports betting client. Betfair’s platform is best known to many for its poker and casino gaming options, even offering basic instructions and beginner tournaments to help users learn how to play poker and other games. But through this partnership, it will look to implement sports betting opportunities with the team, in its stadium and online.
One can argue that Manchester City is in some regards the baby of this list. It’s a dynamite club in recent years, but not one that quite boasts the same rich history of the other three teams discussed here. However, it’s actually the second most valuable of the four, according to Forbes.
Like the other clubs, Man City has lucrative partnerships with a number of smaller sponsors, as well as with a kit designer (in their case, Nike). But a lot of Man City’s wealth boost in recent years can be attributed to Etihad, another UAE-based airline with a major stake in the EPL. Not only does the airline sponsor the City uniforms, but it also owns the stadium the team plays in. According to the club website, the venue has undergone an expansion resulting in a 61,000 person capacity, and thus a great deal more revenue potential.
These are only several of dozens of combined sponsors feeding into the money streams of these clubs. But between the length of these deals, the amounts of money involved, and the nature of some of the partnerships, it’s clear to see that top-flight soccer is truly big business.