Arsenal’s £392.7m problem to put pressure on Mikel Arteta after falling behind Tottenham
For over a decade Arsenal were able to boast the most significant earnings advantage in London thanks to the Emirates Stadium.
It had England’s second largest capacity for a football club and the highest season ticket prices in the country. The new home that Arsene Wenger led the Gunners into was a behemoth for match-day earnings.
Arsenal now find themselves behind both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotsput in the latest results from the Deloitte Football Money League, bringing in £392.7million last season.
By comparison, the Blues brought in £452.2million while Spurs were able to lay claim to a revenue of £459.3million.
During the early 2010s Arsenal were safely ensconced in the top five of the Deloitte Football Money League, alongside the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid.
They might not have been able to access the enormous wealth the stadium was generating due to needed to pay back the costs of its construction but the future looked bright. Now that positive vision is far less certain.
In the era of super stadiums on the site of White Hart Lane, in Stratford and eventually maybe even one in west London to replace Stamford Bridge, Arsenal’s stadium no longer masks their commercial sins, as the latest Money League results reveal.
Since 2018 they have slipped from sixth to 11th in the table, earning £36million less now than they had been brining in during the final years of their Champions League sojourn. That is one fewer Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil or William Saliba a season for Mikel Arteta to sign.
Commercial revenues stagnated in the post-Emirates era. While Manchester United in particular hoovered up corporate sponsors Arsenal lagged behind, tied to long-term deals negotiated to pay for the stadium.
There are signs that that is changing. Next season’s figures will include the new £60million Adidas deal, one negotiated by Vinai Venkatesham when he was chief commercial officer.
Now managing director, the club’s portfolio of sponsors has expanded under his charge, and now numbers 23 but Arsenal are undeniably still playing catch-up.
At a time when the age profile of Arsenal’s squad suggests a rebuild must be looming large – Mesut Ozil is 31, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 30 and Alexandre Lacazette turns 29 at the end of the season – finances are tightening at a time when the purse strings at Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will remain loose.
The latter trio in particular are opening up a sizeable gap in excess of £140million to Arsenal with two of the three seeing that gap reflected on the pitch.
It will require exceptional quality in other areas from the Gunners – coaching, scouting, analysis and facilities – if they are to overcome the impact that financial shortfall could have on recruitment.
Over the summer director Josh Kroenke said in an interview with football.london that the Gunners have “a Champions League wage bill on a Europa League budget right now”.
The fear among supporters must be that if the major investment of that period does not pay off there will inevitably have to a period of financial retrenchment, that top players could be sold off to balance the books.
If Arteta can somehow squeeze Arsenal back into the Champions League then there is hope. As Sam Boor, senior manager in Deloitte’s sports business group, noted: “The relative decline of Arsenal is a direct result of not participating in the competition for a second consecutive season.”
That means the gap can be bridged through on-field success and in Arteta the Gunners look to have a coach who could bring improvements in this department in the long-term.
However, the question is how many more years of short-term pain away from the Champions League can Arsenal manage in the meantime.
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