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Forbes reveals most valuable soccer clubs

For the sixth year in a row, Manchester United is No. 1 on Forbes magazine's list of the highest-valued clubs in the world:

1. Manchester United: $1.8 billion
2. Real Madrid: $1.3 billion
3. Arsenal: $1.1 billion
4. Barcelona: $1 billion
5. Bayern Munich: $990 million
6. Liverpool: $822 million
7. AC Milan: $800 million
8. Juventus: $656 million
9. Chelsea: $646 million
10. Inter Milan: $413 million

"Amid the recession woes affecting other sports, soccer's sponsorships and broadcast rights continue to flourish, with combined revenue growing by $36 million in the 2008-09 season. Despite the large amount of debt most clubs accrue, investors are continuing to pick up teams around the globe, due in large part to soccer's growth prospects in emerging markets."

For further details, including ownership and debt, see the Forbes story.

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By Steve Goff  |  April 21, 2010; 6:02 PM ET
Categories:  England , Italy , Spain  | Tags: AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Forbes, Internazionale Milan, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Soccer  
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The missing link

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 21, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Ugh. Hicks and Gillett will see this and Liverpool will never be sold. Hicks already said he expects to make four times his investment...

Posted by: Louise9 | April 21, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

That's not the missing link. This is:

Posted by: fischy | April 21, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else as shocked as I am to not see DC United not in that top-10 list?

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | April 21, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 21, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Call me another one of this blog's pessimistic trolls, but outside of the top 5 these values are unimpressive. In 2006, the Lerners bought the Nats for $450 million. And before they were just the Nats, they were just the Expos.

It will be interesting to watch the long-term (5-10 years) performance of the teams carrying massive debt--Real Madrid, Schalke, Liverpool, Man U, Arsenal, Dortmund, Tottenham. I would be worried if I was a fan.

Of course, DC United gives me everything I could ever dream of worrying about.

Posted by: hungrypug | April 21, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

The top of that list shows why the Glazers aren't worried about the current debt, and won't sell.

Hungrypug, I could be wrong, and someone can fact check me (I don't have the time I need to get to class), but I believe a recent list of wealthiest sports franchise only had the Yankees, Cowboys, and Redskins worth more than United and Real Madrid. I am pretty sure these soccer clubs are tops in most combined lists. To me this makes sense as NFL and MLB doesn't have the global appeal.

Posted by: grubbsbl | April 21, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

It's seems to be a tough comparison.

How many pro american football, baseball, hockey and basketball leagues are there in the world? While almost every country in the world has a pro soccer league.

So yeah the Nats are $450 million but their league, MLB has a pretty captive global television audience not to mention you don't have anywhere close to the dilution of talent that you have in Soccer. Imagine combining all the players in the top leagues of France, Germany, Spain, England, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Argentina, etc... into one single league with 32 teams. The value of the lowest team would probably be much higher than the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers or Maple Leafs.

Posted by: Southeasterner | April 21, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

ok, well, you guys are mostly right.

Arbitrarily, I picked Inter Milan ($413 million, 10th most valuable soccer team) as an index to compare to the value of teams in US leagues. Next to each league below is the number of its teams worth more than Inter, according to Forbes.

NFL- 32 (the Raiders, the cheapest NFL team, are worth $797 million)
MLB- 14
NBA- 9
NHL- 2
NASCAR- 0 (Hendrick, the priciest NASCAR team, is worth $350 million)

Perhaps most surprisingly, many US teams carry debt loads that make soccer debt seem small.

Still, I'm very skeptical of Forbes' claim that the big soccer clubs' values are justified by "growth prospects in emerging markets," which apparently means the US. It's one thing to recognize that MLB already is popular in the US and every other baseball nation in the western hemisphere. It's another thing to speculate that the big clubs will generate big money from growing US tv viewership, stimulated by annual offseason trips featuring, say, AC Milan's reserves.

Posted by: hungrypug | April 21, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse


my guess is "emerging markets" refers to a lot more than just the US. Probably just about any country outside of the club's home.

Anyway, given how the season is going, I'm all for DC United signing Lancelot Link to a DP contract. It may not help us that much on the field against other teams in MLS but it would raise our profile vis-a-vis the Nats. If we put enough fannies in the seats we can also move closer to Inter on that list.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | April 21, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

slow comment day

Posted by: SexyOffender | April 21, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

@ Pug -- There are other market opportunities for big Euro clubs. The most obvious is the international TV market, but there's one you're probably overlooking. Garber is trying to interest those clubs in investing in MLS. Hard to konw whether soccer will grow here, but it's hard to envision a country with more market growth potential in that area. Maybe India or China, where an EPL brand might also be a coveted marketing opportunity.

If any of you are questioning the validity of the list -- just look at the numbers. Look at the crowds. Ever watch an Italian Serie A match on TV? Some crowds look more Pizza Hut Park than Old Trafford.

Then, consider another number -- home matches. Even with multiple competitions, you're talking about 25 home matches. Baseball has 81, plus the possibility of playoffs. American football has far fewer, but almost every team has guaranteed huge crowds for each, plus they now get a cut of the resale market, and the NFL has a TV contract that is unmatched by any yearly league. With all those commercial breaks, ads airing during American sports games are far more valuable to the advertisers, and equally more profitable for the broadcasters. There's no way for soccer to compete with that. Commercial breaks in soccer are bathroom or kitchen breaks.

Also, the length of the games means football and especially baseball (with no tailgating tradition) teams take in much more in concession stand sales. There's also more varied merchandise to sell, I think, though they may sell fewer jerseys. Even without turning the jerseys into billboards, football and baseball teams have a lot of valuable revenue streams.

I love me some soccer, but if I were looking at investing in a sports team purely in financial terms, football and baseball would be #1 and #2.

Posted by: fischy | April 21, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I had not idea that the EPL divides up TV money the way they do -- with half being parceled out according to performance and # of TV appearances. No wonder it's so impossibly hard for bottom rank teams to challenge for top positions. The rules are rigged to perpetuate the hold of the top 4 or 5 teams. Not only do they begin richer and with better rosters, but they're guaranteed to increase the revenue gap with each year -- ensuring that only they can afford the best players.

I'm glad no US league does that. It's bad enough in baseball, where the Yankees massive local TV revenue stream has given them a huge advantage over every other team except possibly the Red Sox.

Posted by: fischy | April 21, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

"Also, the length of the games means football and especially baseball (with no tailgating tradition) teams take in much more in concession stand sales."

Don't know about DC but in Wisconsin the Brewers have the best tailgating of any sport (yes even the Packers and Badgers). Most people don't even get inside Miller Park until the 3rd or 4th inning, if at all. Even the Orioles and Red Sox games I have been to everyone hangs out before the games in the surrounding neighborhoods eating and drinking on the streets (you can barely move around Fenway).

I think DC baseball fans in general are just lame...not the sport.

Posted by: Southeasterner | April 22, 2010 1:15 AM | Report abuse

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