Six English clubs among 10 most valuable football brands

16 June 2023 Consultancy.uk 6 min. read
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Manchester City has been rated as the world’s most valuable football brand, according to new research. The news comes as the club celebrates the most successful season in its history – having finally claimed the Champions League title as part of a historic treble-winning campaign.

The end of another football season inevitably brings with it an intoxicating blend of sensations. Players despair as they drop into the relegation zone with the last kick of the ball, managers grind their teeth as their team hangs on for a victory which could clinch a new addition to their trophy cabinet, and fans delight and despair at the emotional rollercoaster in equal measure.

But no sooner as the last ball is kicked, trophies are lifted, and the stadiums empty, a new clamour for dominance begins. In the increasingly corporatised world of professional football, what a club is worth financially seems to have become just as important to some fans as what their club does on the pitch.

Six English clubs among 10 most valuable football brands

Who has managed to make the most out of raising ticket fees above the rate of inflation? Who has flogged the highest number of £80 replica shirts with the name of a star player heading for the exit in a few months? Who has made the most out of sponsorship from gambling sites or companies closely linked to despotic regimes?

The question of which club might have most successfully milked their global support base for revenue in the last year is a long way removed from the romance of the sport’s working class origins – but fans will take any chance they can get to lord something over their rivals, so the annual release of football’s rich lists has become a landmark in its own right in the footballing calendar.

Every year, leading brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance is one of a growing number of consultancies to research which of football’s elite clubs are the most financially viable. In 2023, it has compiled a list of 50 of the world’s most valuable and strongest football club brands, 17 of which played their football in the English Premier League in the 2022/23 season.

Moneyball

This financial dominance was even more evident at the top of Brand Finance’s list. Six of the top 10 clubs were from England – including Chelsea in 10th and Tottenham Hotspur in nineth; both of whom endured torrid seasons on the pitch, but still saw their calculated brand value grow, by 0.7% and 2.8% respectively. Arsenal – who ranked 10th in the previous season – saw its stock rise dramatically both on and off the field, with its brand value spiking by 14.3%, taking it to eighth in the ranking, while on the way to its second-place finish in the Premier League.

Further up the list, thanks to claiming a League Cup title, and a third-place finish in the league, Manchester United leapfrogged its bitter rival Liverpool to fourth place – though both clubs again saw their brand value rise, according to Brand Finance. In the end, though, neither was close to Manchester City – which topped the list in the same season it claimed the treble of the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League titles.

City’s brand value climbed by 13.5% over the season, to sit at an estimated €1.5 billion, and according to Brand Finance, the Cityzens’ enormous revenue is largely attributable to its continued that on-pitch success. The club’s successes in major tournaments have generated enormous broadcasting revenues, including a massive prize pot from its Champions League progression – the continued European success boosting international exposure and prestige, and commanding greater sponsorship and commercial appeal.

Back on the club’s home turf, a planned £300 million upgrade of the Etihad Stadium is the next step in bolstering the club’s commercial success.

Hugo Hensley, Head of Sports Services at Brand Finance, commented, “Manchester City has achieved an extraordinary feat by surpassing Real Madrid to become the champion of football club brands. For five years, the City team has exerted its dominance in English football, securing four Premier League titles in the past five seasons. However, the club’s performance in this year’s ranking highlights that Manchester City are performing off the pitch in terms of building a strong brand and attracting fans and sponsors.”

Six English clubs among 10 most valuable football brands

Changes to come

There are sources who would dispute that narrative though. Certainly, City’s financial success this season has been buoyed by on-pitch success – but that on-pitch success was in turn enabled by huge investments on the development of the squad and the club’s infrastructure over 15 years, since Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bought the club.

To that end, February 2023 saw the Premier League accuse Man City of breaching more than 100 financial rules, including failing to provide accurate financial information, failing to comply with UEFA's financial fair play (FFP) regulations, and failing to follow Premier League rules on profit and sustainability.

The club denies these charges – but the charges still cast a dark shadow over the accomplishments at the Etihad this year. It has never been far from the commentary surrounding the Champions League final between City and Inter Milan, for example, that the San Siro based club has operating costs a fraction of the size of City’s – illustrated by a brand value of just €508.9 million. While this represents a 5% on last year, it is still €1 billion less than the Mancunians.

Fans of Newcastle United are likely to be watching what happens to City regarding the club’s FFP charges with baited breath over the summer. Since the Magpies were purchased by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the club has been enjoying its best season in 20 years – finishing fourth to qualify for the Champions League only a year after relegation seemed all but certain.

Along with this, the club has seen one of the biggest brand value changes in Brand Finance’s survey – booming by 31%. But in that time, the club has also been dogged by accusations of sportswashing – helping the government of Saudi Arabia boost its global reputation in spite of a woeful human rights record – as well as calls for examinations of its own FFP standing.

With a bid for Manchester United from Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani – son of the former emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani – having reportedly been accepted, fans of the Red Devils may also be increasingly invested in the welfare of their ‘noisy neighbours’. Depending on how the Premier League decides to proceed, next season’s list of top football brands could be destined for even more rapid change.