Over the years we have frequently published the phrase 'uncertainty of outcome’ in the Journal. It is fundamental to the attraction of sport; it is why there is such a premium on live, as opposed to delayed, broadcast of sport. Quite simply, if we know what is going to happen, then sport is diluted.
A new report from our sister publication Sponsorship Today has analysed the sponsorship deals in Europe’s top soccer leagues. It includes 1,179 deals from 116 clubs in six leagues and offers the startling finding that Manchester United now accounts for 11% of the total revenue. In sponsorship terms Manchester United receives 96 times the income of the lowest-earning club in the English Premier League (Burnley).
Similar results were found in Spain, where Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate, and France, where Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) earns approximately 50% of the entire Ligue 1 club sponsorship revenue. The danger for the future of sport is that a select few clubs could start to earn so much more money than others that their competitive advantage widens to an unassailable chasm.
We have almost reached this point in some countries. Atletico Madrid’s heroics last season saw it pip Barcelona to the Spanish title, but it was the first time for ten years that one of the ‘big two’ had failed to take the prize. In Scotland, Celtic pretty much have the title wrapped up before a ball is kicked because their only serious rival, Rangers, was relegated due to financial irregularities. In France and Germany, both with very competitive leagues in recent years, PSG and Bayern Munich respectively are widening the financial gap to such an extent that sporting competition is looking compromised. In England, Manchester United have just splashed out more than $200 million on new players, while other clubs are having their hands tied by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rule, which states that clubs must operate within their budget.
European soccer doesn’t have the checks and balances seen in the USA where, for example, the lowest performing clubs have first pick of the rookie draft.
It would, of course, be hypocritical of a journal promoting professionalism in sports marketing to call for a halt to clubs maximising their revenues through such a source. At the same time, we have to appreciate that the genie that we have helped to release from the bottle is causing problems for sporting competition. We have to encourage those second string teams to take a more professional attitude to their own marketing. There is a lot more that can be done by the likes of Burnley to remain competitive, but frequently such clubs show a lack of adventure and professionalism when it comes to sports marketing. Finally, we need to encourage a new debate on how the sports industry can help sport to remain competitive. Journal readers and contributors are some of the most knowledgeable and insightful in the world of sport, and I would encourage you to consider this issue in your research.
On the subject of knowledge, I am pleased to announce that our publisher IMR has recently made a dramatic change to its content offering. All library subscribers can now access all of the company’s sports marketing content. This includes every back issue of the Journal going back to 1999 as well as a wide range of sports marketing management reports. You will receive a letter with this edition explaining how to log in. Please use this valuable source of content to further your research and knowledge.
Michel Desbordes, Editor