With the growing importance of broadcasting rights in the football industry, media revenues are considered a key factor for interpreting the disparity in wealth between clubs across the major European leagues. Notwithstanding the amount of income generated from broadcasting, the way this money is distributed also appears to be highly influential in determining a league´s competitive balance.
In this article, KPMG´s Football Benchmark team provides further analysis on the different revenue distribution methods adopted by Europe’s big five leagues.
With Italy’s Serie A (2010) and Spain’s LaLiga (2015) switching from the individual bargaining concept to a centralized method, the latter formula has gradually become the standard across the top leagues. However, while underlining a general trend towards a more equitable system, revenue distribution methods are often the result of negotiations involving a broad range of stakeholders with different bargaining positions and interests.
The English Premier League is often applauded as the most equitable competition across top level football, with a first-to-last ratio slightly above 1.6:1 (2016/17). Interestingly, even though the leagues use criteria similar to their peers - equal distribution (50%), merit payment (25%), standing of the club (25%) – the outcomes vary significantly.
Unlike its counterparts, the Premier League’s merit payments only consider the on-going season, i.e. no past results, and the standing of a club is just defined by the number of times they are broadcast, rather than by metrics such as viewership figures or catchment area. In addition to this unique practice, which helps promote greater equality, it is important to highlight that the English competition also distributes international broadcast revenue equally among its member clubs. Indeed, if international revenues are taken out of the equation, the first-to-last ratio would be 2.1:1
While following a different distribution method – until 2016/17 exclusively based on a weighted average of five seasons playing performance - the distribution ratio of the Bundesliga’s broadcasting revenues is, if only considering domestic income, even lower than that of the Premier League. Since income from international rights is largely concentrated among German clubs participating in European competitions, the reported ratio for the 2016/17 season (3.2:1) was in fact closer to that of both LaLiga and Ligue 1.
From next season, the Bundesliga is changing the way central revenues are distributed. Although still strongly dependent on past performances, the new system will benefit clubs that have consistently played in the league for the last two decades as well as those promoting young domestic talent and, acting as an alternative to other leagues’ parachute payments, second division clubs that have recently played in the top-tier.
With a first-to-last ratio of 3.4:1 (2014/15), France’s Ligue 1 equally distributes 47% of available funds, assigning 28% on the basis of sporting performance and 25% according to each club’s status. While the league assigns more weight than most peers to the on-going season’s playing performance, the fact that TV viewership figures are used as a metric to measure clubs’ status contributes to the differences between larger and smaller clubs.
LaLiga closed the 2016/17 season with an estimated revenue distribution ratio of 3.7:1, a significant improvement when compared to the last season before the move towards collective bargaining of media rights (2014/15). Since then, the growth in the value of LaLiga’s media rights has been the catalyst for more equitable distribution, allowing to improve all clubs’ position in this regard while, at the very least, maintaining Real Madrid and FC Barcelona broadcast revenues to the level established when rights were sold on an individual basis.
Even though Serie A’s distribution system is also based on similar criteria to the Spanish and French competitions, the different weighting and metrics applied result in a reported ratio of 4.7:1. The league’s equal distribution of no more than 40% of available funds and assignment of as much as 30% according to popularity-related metrics have both been pivotal in shaping Serie A’s current system. However, various key stakeholders have shown willingness to evaluate modifications to the system for the next media cycle (2018-2021).
The gradual adoption of collective equitable distribution among the top five leagues is perceived as a sign of cooperation among league members as some clubs put aside short-term interests for the benefit of the league as a product, thus creating an eco-system that allows their competitors to grow at a similar pace.
While various leagues have recently agreed on the modification of their revenue distribution system, in a changing football landscape, key stakeholders will need to regularly reassess the most appropriate metrics to maintain a sustainable method. In the mid-term, further discussions can therefore be anticipated as a result of the rising weight of the leagues’ international media rights and the impact that increasing bonus payments from UEFA competitions, enjoyed only by a few clubs, may have on domestic leagues.
Further investigation into this and related topics, as well as analysis of industry data, can be undertaken for you by KPMG Sports Advisory Practice. Our subject matter experts can also assist stakeholders in assessing and interpreting the potential impact on their organizations of any particular piece of research, identifying the underlying reasons behind specific trends or developing potential solutions and considering future scenarios.
 Latest available data provided by Ligue 1