US and China dominate global ownership of football

The United States and China dominate the global ownership of football according to this year’s Soccerex Football Finance 100, with the two economic powerhouses cumulatively owning more than 30% of the world’s top football clubs, more than all of Europe combined. The report, by leading soccer business experts Soccerex, uses bespoke methodology to evaluate and rank the world’s top 100 clubs according to their finances and, in so doing, provides a different perspective on the global hierarchy of football.

The Soccerex Football Finance 100 2019 paints a clear picture of the modern ownership of the global game with the US clear leaders as the largest single nation, accounting for 18% of top 100 and 23% of top 30. While this figure is boosted by the US ownership of most MLS franchises, US organizations own a quarter of Premier League teams along with clubs in Italy and France too.

China is the next biggest country for ownership with 13% of the top 100, meaning that together the two economic – if not yet football – giants account for the ownership nearly 1/3 of the hundred most financially potent clubs in world football.

Europe combined accounts for 28% of the ownership of the top 100 clubs, with the UK as the biggest individual nation at 7%, behind Russia and Germany who both account for 5%. 

Financial prudence trumps global brands

Premier League Champions, Manchester City top Soccerex’s global ranking for a second successive year, as the club with the greatest financial strength in world football. In the report, City achieved a Football Finance Index (FFI) score of 4.21, which factors in five variables – playing assets, tangible assets, cash in the bank, potential owner investment and net debt.

Qatari-owned PSG are second (3.84) largely due to the vast potential for investment of their sovereign ownership.  German powerhouses Bayern Munich place third in the ranking (2.67) benefitting from a good score across all the verticals measured and a strong business model underpinned by the investment of leading German organizations adidas, Allianz and Audi.

While the top clubs show the impact of billionaire ownership on financial strength, the report also highlights that prudent financial management, as seen at Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, has its benefits. The North London sides rank 4th (2.66) and 5th (2.43) respectively, ahead of bigger global brands such as Real Madrid (2.38), Barcelona (2.05) and Manchester United (1.99). Both Arsenal and Tottenham have high-value tangible assets, benefiting from their capital locations. Spurs strength is also driven by a high squad value with player a number of players such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli whose values have appreciated significantly in the past 12 months. However the value of their new stadium – yet to open – must be set in context of the high levels of debt linked to project. 

Global diversity

Juventus 9th (1.96) and Chelsea 10th (1.89) complete a top 10 that is full of household names and which shows a diversity of ownership structure and business model. The clubs from 11-20 however are perhaps more indicative of football’s changing global picture with a line-up that features clubs old and new from six different countries, including China and the USA, the majority of whom benefit from wealthy benefactors.

Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande rank 12th (1.72) thanks to immense wealth of an ownership group which includes Evergrande Group and the digital behemoth Alibaba. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s LA Galaxy rank 18th with high-valued tangible assets and the wealth of owners AEG.

There are three US clubs in the top 30 (LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC and New England Revolution) the same number as there are from France and from Italy.

UK clubs continue to dominate the top 30 accounting for 1/3 of the clubs. Liverpool are 11th, Leicester City 19th, Fulham 26th, Everton 27th and Wolverhampton 28th with all benefitting from significant foreign investment.

Domestic imbalances

The F100 report also highlights the significant imbalance in resources that exists in most domestic leagues. In France and China, the vast wealth of the Paris Saint-Germain and Guangzhou Evergrande owners – €269bn and €179bn respectively – dwarves that of their domestic rivals and has brought about periods of dominance for both sides.

In Italy, perennial winners Juventus have cash reserves of €140m giving them a huge advantage over rivals such as AC Milan, Inter Milan, Lazio, Napoli and Roma whose cash totals combined are approximately 50% of Juventus’ total.

Commenting on the launch of the Soccerex Football Finance 100, Soccerex Marketing Director, David Wright said:

“I am delighted that we can again bring the market this unique global perspective of football clubs’ financial strength; one that is in tune with the modern reality of the game showing the impact of owner investment and financial prudence at the top end of the global game. The Soccerex Football Finance 100 also provides an indicator of where the ownership of the game might be going. The influence of China and the US will surely only continue to grow, fuelled by state prioritisation in China and both the expansion of MLS and the prospect of co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the US.”

The 2019 edition of the Soccerex Football Finance 100 study has been conducted in collaboration with recognised specialists in sports financial valuations, analysing clubs’ balance sheets and annual reports from 2016/17, the last complete financial year available, plus other renowned sources of information like UEFA, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance, Forbes, Transfermarkt and Hoovers.