Abba vindicated by Madrid's millions

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"Money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man’s world". Working at FourFourTwo, we’re in no position to confirm Abba’s assertion that a large wedge leads to lifetime of hilarity.

But if the once-mighty Swedish popsters are to be believed, then life at Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona must be a barrel of laughs. You see, it’s these three clubs, in that order, that top Deloitte’s latest Football Money League.

While the news that Europe’s biggest clubs got a little bit richer during 2005/06 is about as shocking as seeing a WAG carrying a Luis Vuitton bag, the order of the top three is a bit of a surprise. As the richest club in the richest league, surely Manchester United’s pile of money should see them sitting on top of this pile of moneyed.

Not so. While United’s €315m (£212.1m) revenue was enough to push Barcelona’s measly €290.1m (£195.3m) earnings into third, the moneymen at Old Trafford will need to sell a lot more shirts, tickets and prawn sandwiches if they’re to topple Real Madrid’s hefty €351m (£236.2m) income. Or so it seems. It’s not until you delve into how the figures were totted up that you realise that the explanation for this runners up spot for the Red Devils is in the detail.

Throwing aside all the guff about ‘revenue basis’ and ‘strategic clarity’ it’s seems Real Madrid’s victory is down, in the main, to the difference in the way English and Spanish clubs agree TV rights.

In Spain, broadcasting rights are negotiated on a club-by-club basis. So while Real Madrid and Barcelona hammer out massive deals for themselves, La Liga minnows like Almeria and Getafe have to fend for themselves. Manchester United, on the other hand, due to the Premier League’s collective bargaining policy, must share their power to draw an audience (which equates to money in TV land) with Wigan et al.

Yet, even with this obvious advantage, Real will do well to retain top spot for next year. The new €132.4 (89.1m) a year TV deal they signed in 2006/07 - the main reason they were able to out grow United - is set to be trumped. The 2007/08 Money League will include revenue from the overseas TV deal the Premier League secured last January. As Champions, this deal will add £50m to the Old Trafford coffers - easily enough to see them over haul Madrid.

The suits at Old Trafford will be laughing all the way to the bank. Looks like Abba were right after all.