UEFA's release of their yearly "benchmarking" report on Thursday has revealed concerns over nine "global super clubs" who are becoming increasingly difficult to compete with financially.
The Daily Mail's Nick Harris relayed the details of the report, in which UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin warned of the ever-growing gulf between Europe's financial elite—specifically Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain—and the rest of the footballing world.
Per Harris, Ceferin warned UEFA are concerned with "a return to high wage growth and the increasing concentration of sponsorship and commercial revenue among a handful of clubs," adding that their inordinate proportion of the riches in the game are "being sliced and segmented into an ever larger and more lucrative number of deals."
This is enabling those global super clubs to monetise their huge supporter bases, which extend across the globe and which can be accessed far better through social media than was ever possible through traditional marketing in the past.
These supporter bases are growing inexorably, powered by star players, overseas tours and regular participation in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
UEFA's financial fair play initiative has seemingly worked to prevent clubs spending beyond their means—a collective £560 million loss across Europe in the two years prior to FFP has become a £1.2 billion profit in the last two years—but has done little to prevent the gap widening between Europe's elite and the rest.
The nine clubs mentioned have each grown their revenues by approximately £100 million in the last six years thanks to sponsorship deals and other commercial sources.
By contrast, of the more than 700 other clubs who play top-flight football across Europe, the majority have seen their income rise by less than £1 million on average in that time.
In September, Manchester United's accounts showed them to be the first British club to turn in revenues of over £500 million in a year and the second club in the world to do so after Barcelona.
Premier League clubs in particular are only set to get richer—the new £5.1 billion TV deal will ensure the club that finishes 20th this season will receive around £105 million from broadcasters alone.
Harris shared further details:
Nick Harris @sportingintel
The TV deals that underpin football wealth in Europe's major leagues https://t.co/eobSlIx9Yi2017-1-12 08:32:51
As a result, wages are continuing to soar, particularly in the Premier League, as Harris relayed:
|European Football Revenues, Wage Bills and Growth|
|League||Average Revenue||Average Wage Bill||Underlying Wage Bill Growth|
|UEFA, via Nick Harris|
Indeed, the English top flight's average wage bill is almost double that of the Bundesliga, its nearest competitor.
With it becoming increasingly unrealistic to compete with these giants financially, so, too, has it become more difficult for other clubs to compete with them on the pitch.
PSG and Bayern Munich have each won the last four Ligue 1 and Bundesliga titles, respectively, while La Liga's title has gone to Barcelona or Real Madrid every year since 2005 save for Atletico Madrid's victory in 2014.
Given the spread of wealth, the Premier League is naturally more competitive, but aside from Leicester City's fairytale title win last year and Blackburn Rovers' triumph in 1995, only Arsenal, Chelsea, United and City have won the competition.
In the UEFA Champions League, Inter Milan are the only team not included in the nine "super clubs" to win it since 2008.
Off the pitch, perhaps the only clubs who can match their financial might are those of the Chinese Super League, which has emerged as a powerhouse in its own right in recent years with huge sums offered to tempt European-based players.
However, they might only compete with them on the pitch in the FIFA Club World Cup. For the foreseeable future, their dominance of European football only looks set to continue.