Liverpool remain ninth amongst Europe's most lucrative clubs on the strength of increased commercial revenues, but without success on the pitch it isn't sustainable.
With Deloitte releasing the latest edition of their yearly look at the finances of Europe's top football clubs, Liverpool have managed to hold on to a spot in the top ten in 2011-12, the first full reported season under Fenway Sports Group's ownership. In fact, despite the club's struggles on the pitch under Kenny Dalglish last year, Liverpool held steady at number nine—and were the only side amongst the ten most lucrative clubs in Europe not involved in the Champions League.
It's hardly surprising to learn that Real Madrid and Barcelona top the list by a comfortable margin, with the Spanish giants raking in €512.6M and €483M respectively. They're followed up by the usual suspects, with Manchester United the top Premier League earners at just a hair under €400M and Bayern Munich the lone German representative in the top ten at €368.4M.
Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City follow in the €300M range, with City moving up the list thanks to increasing Champions League and commercial revenue. Their rise sees AC Milan drop to eighth with revenues of €256.9M before we reach Liverpool, who with €233.2M in revenue sit comfortably ahead of Juventus, the Italian club rounding out the top ten with revenues below €200M. Tottenham, ahead of Liverpool on the pitch in recent seasons, are thirteenth in the money league with revenues of €178.2M.
Despite Liverpool's struggles to return to the top four and lucrative Champions League action, the club's financial standing suggests a club that can still hold its own with the best in Europe—for now, at least. And despite the criticism they face at times, much of that is thanks to the commercial dealings of the owners and managing director Ian Ayre, who have increased sponsorship revenues in recent seasons to compensate for the loss of Champions League revenue and Liverpool's smaller stadium.
Questions about decision making when it comes to playing staff and what at times appears a rudderless approach on the football side of things may be justified, but on the finances it's hard to argue Fenway haven't done their part to keep Liverpool in a competitive position. Their work can be seen best when breaking down the revenue by source, where fellow traditional top four members Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea all have broadcast and matchday revenues around twice as high as Liverpool's yet Liverpool still manage to have a higher commercial return than either Arsenal or Chelsea, at least keeping them in touching distance of the two London clubs.
Of course, Liverpool's ability to aggressively develop a new source of income under Fenway Sports Group's guidance has largely depended on the global value of Liverpool as a brand—a value that was built by football success and can only be maintained over the longer term by further football success. The owners have increased commercial revenue to help make up for shrinking revenues elsewhere, but without success it's not a question of if those revenues will begin to decline as broadcast revenue in particular has in recent years—it's just a question of when.