When Forbes publish their lists of the richest clubs in the world, it is noticeable with each edition how English clubs are increasingly dominating the list.

Now that the 2020 list has been published, only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich prevented English clubs claiming all of the top-six spots in the list.

However, we also see clubs like West Ham, Everton, and Newcastle in the top twenty. These are teams with no involvement in European football, have won no trophies between them in the last 25+ years and who finished 16th, 12th and 13th respectively in their domestic league last season.

This is without even considering Leicester, Wolves, and Southampton who are very close behind them. This wealth for all clubs in the Premier League is due to how television money is distributed.

Champions Liverpool topped the television revenue table last season, receiving £174.6m. However, even the lowest team in the Premier League will receive approximately £100m from their share of the television revenue.

Comparison with Other Leagues

In contrast to La Liga, where Real Madrid and Barcelona receive similar amounts to the top-two in the Premier League. However, Sevilla in 4th received less than every Premier League club. Atletico Madrid in 3rd received slightly less than Aston Villa in 17th. At the bottom end of the table, a team relegated from La Liga will receive around £39m.

This also helps to explain why newly-promoted Aston Villa had the biggest net-spend in the summer of 2019. Likewise this summer, when newly-promoted Leeds United were the second-biggest club in terms of net-spend.

The television rights for the Premier League are valued at £1,667,000,000 or £1.67bn per season. In contrast, the rights for all of the Championship, League One, League Two, promotion play-offs, twelve League Cup matches and three EFL Trophy matches are packaged together and valued at £0.12bn.

Using the example of Aston Villa again, they are estimated to have received just £7.4m in their promotion-winning season, despite being the most televised club in the football league.

With this in mind, it is clear why some clubs invest so heavily to ensure their Premier League survival. The loss of revenue for a club dropping from the Premier League to the Championship can be crippling.

Perhaps this also explains why so many former stalwarts of the Premier League struggle to recover after relegation. Only 2 of the 9 clubs relegated between 2017 and 2019 have subsequently been promoted back to the Premier League. Two of them (Hull and Sunderland) have suffered subsequent relegation to League One. A further three of them were ranked 15th or lower in the Championship last season.

How does this relate to the Premier League Bank-Rolling World Football?

Money is transferred between clubs in the form of transfer fees. Typically in the past, we have seen a lot of movement from the richer clubs spread across Europe towards poorer leagues in South America, for example.

As a result, a league such as Brasileirão has been seen as a feeder league for European football. Young players prove their quality there before moving for large fees to Europe such as Neymar, Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior, Reinier, Lucas Moura, Lucas Paquetá, Gabriel Jesus, etc.

Flamengo’s recent purchase of Gabriel Barbosa, or Gabigol, is the largest acquisition of a player in Brazilian football. And yet, it wouldn’t even rank in the top twenty compared with sales away from the Brasileirão.

Cumulative Net Spend of Top Leagues over the past 12 years.
Cumulative Net Spend of Top Leagues over the past 12 years.

As you can see from the graph above, over £12bn has left the Premier League over the last ~12 years in the form of transfer fees. At the same time, very few other leagues actually have a net spend. The Serie A, with a net spend of just over £2bn, comes closest to this amount. Bundesliga and La Liga are between £1.2bn and £1.5bn.

Only the eight largest leagues in terms of transfer activity have been included here to avoid clutter. However, no other leagues would break into the top four in terms of net spend and almost all other leagues are making a net profit from transfer fees in this time.

The impact of COVID-19

Net Spend of Top Leagues: Summer 2019
Net Spend of Top Leagues: Summer 2019

This has been exacerbated even further by COVID-19. As you can see, in the last summer window prior the £630m spent by the Premier League clubs is double that of Serie A, or almost as much as the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A combined.

Net Spend of Top Leagues: Summer 2020
Net Spend of Top Leagues: Summer 2020

However, in the summer 2020 window, no league had a net spend greater than £74m, bar the Premier League. The £903m net spend of the Premier League is more than twelve times as much as the next biggest spender, Serie A.

Ligue 1 were the only league other than Serie A to have a net spend last summer. This came as a surprise given that they have a net profit over the previous twelve years.

This was no doubt linked to their new £1.15bn a season TV deal with Mediapro and BEIN; the second largest TV deal in Europe behind only the Premier League.

The news earlier this month that this deal has collapsed will no doubt see something of a fire-sale from Ligue 1 clubs in January and the summer, seeing them turn a huge net profit once again.

This will extend further the financial disparity of the Premier League and all other leagues around the world.

A glossary of all the terms used in this article and throughout the site as a whole is available here. Also, click on any image in the article for full-size high definition version.

All data used in our articles is sourced from Understat, FBRef, Sofascore, Transfermarkt and 538.

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