How does Scottish football’s finances compare to Europe?

How does Scottish football’s finances compare to Europe?

By Stefan Bienkowski

This week saw UEFA release their annual benchmark report for the previous financial year, detailing the makeup of Europe’s top domestic leagues in terms of ownership, revenue, player fees and a whole lot else.


If you’d like to thumb through the 126-page report you can do so right here, but to save you the trouble we’ve gone through it ourselves with a tartan tooth comb  to decipher just how well the Scottish Premiership is doing compared to its European counterparts.


Whenever these reports come out the easiest thing to pick up on are the coefficent rankings and how poorly Scottish football continues to do in them. However, they’re a bit of a red herring since those figures are available all year round. We even took a look at them late last year – you can read about them here.


Revenue breakdown


As such, today is going to be a look at the money and financial side of the sport and just how well or poorly Scottish football is doing in comparison to the rest of the world. And when we take a look at the total revenue breakdown of the Premiership we can already see some huge differences.



The graph above shows the total revenue of each top division in European football and how they’re put together through five sources: broadcasting, earnings from UEFA, gate receipts, commercial and other. If you hover your mouse over the graph it will show you what percentage each makes up.


The most obvious trend here is the fact that Scotland undoubtedly leads the way when it comes to revenue from gate receipts. The SPFL is famed for being one of the highest attended leagues in the world per capita, and that certainly shows from the manner in which the Premiership’s clubs make no less than 37% of their revenue from punters walking through the turnstiles. The closest to the Premiership in this regard is the Swiss Super League, sitting on 30%, while the top five divisions in Europe make on average just 15% of their money from ticket sales.


At this point it may be tempting to point out that the Premiership only makes 13% of its revenue from the current SPFL broadcasting deal – a paltry sum compared to the manner in which the top divisions in Europe are clearly supported by their own TV deals.



However, when we compare Scotland’s 13% to other divisions of similar size – Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, etc – we can see that the Premiership is by no means lagging behind and is in fact positioned right in the middle of what some might call the second or third tier divisions in Europe.


TV money


Indeed, when we dig into the Premiership’s revenue from broadcasting there is plenty to be hopeful about. Perhaps it’s inevitable that Scottish football fans tend to compare their own fortunes to the goliath of the English game, but it’s worth considering that past the  Premier League is an entire continent of leagues with contrasting fortunes in television.



The graph above shows three things: how much each league’s broadcasting deal is worth to its total revenue, how that has changed since the previous year and its total value in comparison to the rest of the continent. The Scottish numbers are labelled in pink.


When it comes to total value, the Premiership is sixteenth out of the top 20 leagues in Europe with a broadcasting deal worth £19 million in value. That may not seem like much, but within the grand scheme of European football it probably makes sense.


Intriguingly, when we look at the growth in value of the deal we can see that the money coming in from BT Sport, Sky Sports & others has seen a 12% rise. That in itself is impressive compared to most of European football. When we compare the European broadcasting market in terms of growth, the Premiership comes out in sixth and as we can see from the graph a number of divisions are seeing very little growth or indeed some notable falls.


It’s worth noting at this point that the Premiership is the fifth least reliant on TV money among the top divisions in Europe. That may be down to a modest deal, but in the world of astronomical fees being spent on securing TV rights it may be worth noting that the more a division relies on potential economic bubbles such as the Premier League TV rights market, the more at risk it is at collapsing if that were to burst.



If Scottish football were to see its broadcasting deal fall apart unexpectedly (again) then it would be in a far better position than most leagues around Europe.


Commercial dealings


One aspect of the financial results that is perhaps a little concerning is the amount of money Scottish football is making from sponsorship and commercial partnerships, in comparison to European leagues.



The Premiership made €55 million from commercial dealings last year – a sizeable sum that makes up no less than 37% of the league’s income – but it’s a relatively low figure in comparison to the top 20 divisions in Europe. In such regard, our top division finds itself sixteenth and some distance behind rival leagues.


Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that although a five percent increase from the previous year is welcomed, it’s by no means one of the most impressive in Europe. In fact, when we excuse the three countries that saw their commercial revenue fall, Scotland sits in front of just Sweden and the Netherlands.


Such figures should always be taken in context, which is why Austria, Denmark and Norway making increases of 33%, 16% and 17% is slightly troubling. Scottish football’s commercial dealings aren’t bad, but they equally aren’t great. And our rivals seem to be improving at a far quicker pace than we are.


Gate Receipts


Despite the relatively good news across the board, it’s only once we get in to the gate receipts that we can really see where Scottish football tends to thrive compared to its counterparts across Europe.



According to UEFA, the Premiership makes €55 million from fans at the grounds each and every year – a figure that incredibly puts us tenth in Europe. Sitting just above Portugal and comfortably above divisions of comparable size, such as Sweden and Austria, it’s clear to see that the financial backbone of Scottish football is indeed the money pumped in by its fans.


What’s even more impressive is that over the course of the past year we’ve seen those impressive gate receipts increase by nine percent. To put that in to perspective, only four other divisions in all of Europe enjoyed a larger bump in money made from fans attending games – each of them notably bigger than Scotland.


Again, as we saw with the broadcasting figures, such data perhaps offers a much-needed perspective on the health of Scotland’s top division. Sure, our grounds may not look as full and vibrant as the Premier League, but they do bring in more money than most in European football and look as though they’re going to bring in even more next year. Most divisions around the continent would kill for the level of fan engagement that the Premiership clearly enjoys.


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