LONDON - Spain's Real Madrid retained the title of the world's richest soccer club in the past year thanks to sponsorship and TV deals robust enough to endure a season without a major trophy, a study showed on Thursday.
Real's revenue of 519 million euros ($704 million) put the club ahead of domestic rivals Barcelona in fiscal 2012/2013, with European champions Bayern Munich edging into third ahead of Manchester United, in the annual Football Money League compiled by accountants Deloitte.
Qatari-owned Paris St Germain (PSG), where former England captain David Beckham ended his career last year, underlined its emergence as a soccer power with an 81 percent rise in revenue to almost 400 million euros to claim fifth spot.
Revenue for the top 20 teams rose by 8 percent to 5.4 billion euros, Deloitte said, underlining the appeal of soccer to broadcasters and sponsors targeting mass consumer markets.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of the most consistently successful teams in Europe, fielding top players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi respectively.
The two clubs enjoy the financial advantage of being able to negotiate their own TV deals, rather than pooling TV rights income as teams in other major leagues have to do.
Yet Spain's TV rights model and the country's economic crisis have left many of its smaller clubs facing a struggle to survive and demanding a bigger share of cash from broadcasters.
Speaking to Reuters this week, Barcelona Vice President Carles Vilarrubi said only the bigger teams could deliver the kind of viewing figures TV companies demand.
"It's a question of balance because people want to watch Barca and Real Madrid and PSG and Bayern Munich games," Vilarrubi said.
"We should equalise a little bit the income of the clubs but at the same time we should consider that the TV channels need to offer the games that people want to watch."
Manchester United won the English premier league for a record 20th time last year, but the team has struggled on the pitch this season and risks missing out on qualification for a place in the lucrative UEFA Champions League.
Despite the poor form, United are set for a big rise in turnover as benefits roll in from improved English Premier League TV contracts and new sponsorship deals. The club is forecasting revenue for the current season of between 420 million pounds ($691.5 million) and 430 million, up from 363 million last season.
"Beyond 2013/14, consistent qualification for the Champions League is key in United challenging to regain top spot in the Money League, a position it last held in 2003/04," said Deloitte's Austin Houlihan.
PSG have used their new-found riches to sign players such as Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovic and last May won the French league for the first time since 1994.
"PSG are the fastest climber in this year's Money League, claiming the highest-ever position for a French club," said Houlihan.
The largest part of PSG's income last season came from commercial deals that yielded 255 million euros. Its sponsors include airline Emirates, kit supplier Nike and the Qatar Tourism Authority.
"We expect to see them become a mainstay in the top five in years to come, backed by their ambitious Qatari owners and strong commercial support," Houlihan added.