Top football clubs cash in on shirt deals

By Roger Blitz in London

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Clubs in Europe's top six leagues - England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain - have accumulated €395.5m ($593m) in shirt sponsorship deals, below the high point of €405.3m two seasons ago but just above last season's €393.2m, says Sport+Markt, the sports consultancy.

In the current season, clubs in the Bundesliga, Germany's top league, generated the highest amount in shirt sponsorship revenue at €108.6m.

This represents an increase on last season, a trend mirrored by clubs in Italy's Serie A, Spain's La Liga and the Dutch Eredivisie.

The survey found that the English Premier League, the league with the biggest international reach, has a large gap in shirt sponsorship values between the top and bottom clubs.

Earlier this year, both Manchester United and Liverpool, two of the English top league's biggest clubs, secured new sponsors willing to pay £20m ($33m) each a year. Both deals take effect from next season.

Gareth Moore of Sport+Markt said: "English top clubs achieve the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deals in the world but the gap to the bottom clubs is just too large.

"The deals of the lower- placed teams are at the same level as some top deals [in Germany's second division]."

The Premier League saw a slight dip in the value of shirt deals at €83.5m but remains well behind the Bundesliga.

However, clubs in France's Ligue 1 saw revenues plummet by €12.2m to €37.8m, hit by advertising restrictions affecting betting companies and alcohol brands.

Betting companies are taking up the slack in sponsorship, accounting for €56.4m of deals this season, second only to banking, financial services and insurance among the sectors most attracted to football shirt contracts.

The Premier League has seen the number of betting companies with their names on clubs' shirts rise from two to seven.

"Global platforms allow betting companies to overcome legal barriers and provide them with access to the global football community, including markets like Germany or China," said Mr Moore.

Energy suppliers, travel and leisure companies and telecoms groups are other significant businesses in the shirt sponsorship market.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.