The Business of Selling Football Teams

One bad season for Manchester United has not shaken General Motors Co’s belief in its $559 million sponsorship deal with the English soccer club… Ben Klayman, Reuters

pre-season tourA truly global sport

By Dave Daniel

Across the globe it is time for pre-season tours as teams prepare for their local leagues to begin. They’re not really local of course, as games and news are quickly beamed around the world via TV and internet. So the latest football becomes a part of supporters’ lives in almost any country they reside. So many of today’s top clubs are big business, very big business. 


Manchester United: a huge commercial enterprise

Manchester United had a 2012-2013 Premier League

Manchester U fans~ turnover of £363 million

~ match day takings of £109 million

~ a wage bill of £181 million

~ TV income of 102 million

~ £153 million income from commercial deals

~ a net debt of £295 million.

These are huge numbers and help to explain why United is sometimes referred to as the biggest club in the world. (It is estimated that the club has over 650 million fans across the globe!)

In the old days, money was earned by success on the pitch resulting in increased attendances and longer runs in knock out competitions. It was very straightforward.

The power of the media and sponsorship

Television has changed everything, as sponsors want to see their logos beamed into our homes and of course on the shirts that are sold.  United are currently taking part in a pre-season tournament in the United States and there are powerful reasons why they are there.

CheveoletUS car manufacturer, Chevrolet, are United’s new shirt sponsor to the tune of a staggering £357 million over seven years! Yes, almost double what previous sponsor Aon, a British insurance company, used to pay.

Interestingly Joel Ewanick was the chief marketing officer of Chevrolet’s parent company, General Motors, at the time. He resigned days after the deal was done with a spokesman saying that he failed to meet with the expectations the company has for its employees.

Did no-one upstairs know what was going on? Anyway, no wonder that Chevrolet what some bang for their bucks! United’s new manager, Louis Van Gaal, has made it clear that he feels that the clubs responsibilities to its sponsors is taking too much time away from the important business of preparing the team for the next season. He is seeking changes. Good luck on that one Louis!

The Phoenix looking good

Closer to home the Wellington Phoenix have just completed games against both West Ham United and Newcastle United from the English Premier League. Pity that the A League is not underway till October as the Phoenix did themselves proud and showed that Ernie Merrick is well and truly putting his stamp on the team. I was at the Stadium on Saturday and they were worth a draw, no questions.

PhoenixSo what has changed? After the last season the players know what is expected and seem to have embraced Merrick’s philosophy based on possession, quick passing and movement.

Ernie also has the knack of finding talent in the lower leagues. One of the finds of last year was Albert Riera, who was plying his trade in Auckland. On Saturday he was immense, breaking up attacks, showing great poise in tight situations and great awareness of what was going on around him. He will be very important for the Phoenix this year.

All of a sudden we seem to have a left back, Tom Doyle from Team Wellington, who Merrick has spotted and asked to join the squad for a trial. Against Newcastle he showed pace, tactical awareness and no fear. It appears the club is going to offer him a contract and this is great news.

A moving tribute to two fans

Lastly a word about the tribute paid at the Stadium to Liam Sweeney and John Alder, the two Newcastle United supporters killed in the Ukraine when flight MH17 came down.

Thirty thousand fans stood in silence as a Maori group sang a Waiata that filled the stadium and brought tears to my eyes.

See you next time.