Champions League earnings: past and future winners


With the group stage draw complete, the 2015/16 edition of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) will kick off in two weeks’ time.  The upcoming competition has already seen some interesting changes:

  • As opposed to the co-efficients of the competing clubs being the determinant of their position in the UCL draw, the new seeding format for the group stage draw saw greater reliance on on-pitch performance with the champions of the top seven individual associations within UEFA being the highest seeds, along with the current UCL title holder.  However, with FC Barcelona being both the UCL title holder as well as Spanish champions, the final seeding place went to the eighth highest association, the Netherlands.
  • 2015/16 will see the first time any country has been represented by five clubs at the group stage.  Spain has benefited from the on-pitch performance of its clubs at European level with Sevilla winning a place in the UCL as a result of its success in the UEFA Europa League.  Italy will only have two representatives in 2015/16, the lowest since 2012/13.
  • The 2015/16 UCL is the first season of a new cycle of revenue distribution from UEFA, which will run between 2015 and 2018.  Based on available information, the total amount available to clubs from the group stage onwards is approximately EUR 1.2 billion, an increase of 26% compared to the 2012-15 cycle. 
  • The structure of distribution to the clubs will also change.  The influence of the market pool – the value of each broadcasting market represented by participating clubs – has been reduced from 45% to 40% and the fixed amounts – prize money distributed based on on-pitch performance - increased to 60%.

When looking at the recent UCL performance, Spanish teams benefited the most from competing in the UCL between 2011 and 2014 earning in aggregate EUR 434.5 million.  Amongst the ‘big five’ leagues, England was not too far behind (EUR 427.2 million).

When examining just on a prize money basis, perhaps unsurprisingly considering their excellent on-pitch performances (six semi-finalists and two finalists in the three finals of the years under review), Spanish clubs continued to lead the way, earning EUR 248.2 million over the three seasons, followed by Germany (EUR 210.3 million) and England (EUR 196.3 million).

The fact that Italian teams shares the second largest market pool among ‘big five’ leagues, while having only eight participating teams over the three seasons analysed, led to them having the largest average distribution per club from the UCL (EUR 41.9 million).  To further illustrate the impact of the market pool on Italian clubs, the highest average amount of revenue distributed over the timeframe of our analysis came in 2012/13 when Italian clubs achieved an average distribution of EUR 58.3 million per club.  This was in large part due to the fact that Italy’s market pool (EUR 81 million) was distributed between AC Milan and Juventus FC, the only two Italian clubs that reached the UCL’s group stage that year.

Similarly to Italy, over the three seasons analysed, France had only eight teams participating in the UCL. However, French clubs received a combined amount of EUR 252 million - the lowest amount both in terms of prize money and market pool revenues amongst the ‘big five’ leagues – and approximately EUR 85 million less than their Italian peers.

The new distribution system will provide participating clubs with the opportunity to boost their respective revenues.  However, to what extent are clubs increasing their spending on player wages with the aim of outperforming their peers, and does this strategy result in a significant return on investment? 

In this article, KPMG Sports practice analyse the relationship between total staff costs incurred by clubs from the ‘big five’ leagues participating in the UCL and the revenues received from UEFA’s distribution system in the 2011/12-2013/14 period.

Whilst this analysis focuses on the revenue distributed by UEFA, it does not consider the potential increase in clubs’ matchday income as a result of hosting UCL fixtures, nor any revenue uplift from commercial contracts as a result of UCL participation and progress.

The chart below illustrates that whilst the average staff costs of a participating club from the ‘big five’ leagues in the UCL across the 2011/12-2013/14 period was EUR166 million, the average amount earned from UEFA by those clubs over the same period, was EUR37 million, or approximately 22% of staff costs.

Although within each country and each season there are deviations around these mean numbers, the on-pitch performance of Spanish clubs has been achieved whilst the average staff cost of Spanish clubs participating in the UCL has been broadly in line with the average staff cost across all the clubs competing from the ‘big five’ leagues.

The chart also illustrates the impact in 2012/13 of Borussia Dortmund’s and Bayern Munich’s progression to the final of the UCL.  The total amount of money earned by these clubs covered 51% and 28% of their staff costs in that season, respectively.  Overall, the total amount earned from UCL distributions based on the success of German teams in the 2012/13 competition contributed to over one third of their total staff costs in that year.

An additional trend that can be observed in the chart is the shift of the French clubs. The movement – clearly influenced by the performance of Paris Saint-Germain – illustrates that whilst French participants in the UCL have spent more on staff costs each year, the average distribution from UEFA to participating clubs has also increased.

The performance of Premier League clubs is of interest, with English clubs’ above average staff costs meaning that whilst 19% of staff costs at participating clubs was recovered through the UCL in 2011/12, this reduced to 13% in 2013/14.

The ratio between the revenue earned from the UCL and staff costs for French (24-29%) and Italian (24-37%) clubs across the period is significantly higher than that of English (13%-19%) clubs.  

With the new revenue distribution system coming into force this year, approximately EUR 725 million (60% of the total forecasted amount) will be distributed by UEFA based on the sporting performance achieved by individual clubs – representing an uplift of around EUR 200 million compared to the previous cycle.

With five clubs participating in the 2015/16 UCL, Spain are favourites to be the biggest beneficiaries from the start of the new cycle. Indeed, these five clubs have already secured a combined amount of EUR 60 million from participation in the group stage, which is equivalent to more than a third of the amount jointly gained in the entire 2013/14 season by Spanish clubs. This performance might be further boosted by achieving on-pitch sporting performance on a par with other Spanish clubs in recent UCL editions.

However, it will be interesting to observe how this uplift in revenue impacts the profitability of clubs and whether there is any knock-on effect on total staff costs.

*Analysis of staff costs does not include the expenditure of Malaga (2012/13) and Bayer Leverkusen (2011/12 and 2013/14) as these clubs’ financial statements are not publicly available.
Please note that at the time of writing this article, UEFA has not yet published the official figures concerning the UCL revenue distribution to clubs for the 2014/15 season.