By Christopher WinnProgramme Leader for MSc Football Business

The quest for the top four positions in the English Premier League, and associated qualification for the UEFA Champions League (UCL), has never been so financially and commercially attractive.

The commencement of the latest UEFA broadcast rights cycle in 2018/19 had a material financial impact on many of the clubs participating in the UCL, with UEFA paying out almost €2bn in distributions in 2018/19, up from just €1.4bn in 2017/18 – an increase of over 40%. The overall effect of this change is summarised below (Source: UEFA):


Domestically, the teams to benefit the most were Liverpool and Tottenham, who in the process of reaching the UCL final in 2018/19 received €111m and €102m respectively – the highest amounts ever received by English clubs from UCL participation – consolidating the former’s position in 7th and the latter’s rise to an all-time high of 8th in the latest Deloitte Football Money League. Further afield, Barcelona recorded a record-breaking UEFA distribution of €118m, more than double that received by the club in 2017/18, on their way to top spot in the latest Money League.

However, the 2018/19 season also saw a material change to the way UEFA distributes revenues to clubs competing in European competition, which means that although operating with significantly higher levels of distributions, some teams were significantly better or worse off for the change in mechanism. This is summarised for the UCL below:


As can be seen, in 2017/18, 42% of UEFA UCL distributions were allocated through the concept of the ‘Market Pool’. Although a complex formula, the principle basis is one of division according to the value of the TV market in each country. As a result, the larger/more successful club nationalities would generally receive more than the smaller markets.

In 2018/19, UEFA introduced a new mechanism incorporating participating clubs’ European rankings over the previous ten years. In addition to coefficient points accumulated over this period, this ranking also includes bonus points for historical success on the European stage. On the basis of these parameters, the ranking is equated to ‘coefficient shares’ of €1.108m in 2018/19 – with the top ranked team receiving 32 shares, and the 32nd ranked team receiving one share.

On paper, while the teams originating from the more lucrative TV markets may in all likelihood also be the clubs ranked the highest in UEFA’s rankings, given the emphasis also placed on historical European success, there may be outliers in this relationship.

The move to the new mechanism, coupled with an increase in the number of ‘Big 5’ league clubs being able to qualify for the UCL competition in 2018/19, meant that 72% of total distributions were received by 59% of UCL clubs – those being ‘Big 5’ league clubs.


However, given under the previous mechanism 67% of distributions were received by the 50% originating from the ‘Big 5’ leagues, simple ratio analysis would expect that 79% of distributions would be received by the 59% of clubs in 2018/19.

Put simply, the new mechanism appears to have reduced the relative amount of UCL distributions received by ‘Big 5’ league clubs – although it is important to state this is based on one season only.

As such, we decided to look at the 2018/19 individual club distributions in a scenario where the full market pool and performance coefficient amounts are distributed according to each club’s share of the market pool element only. The following tables shows the biggest winners and losers in terms of this alternative position vs actual position:


Interestingly, the Portuguese teams FC Porto and Benfica came out as the biggest winners under the new mechanism in 2018/19. Given their historical performance on the European stage, as well as the relatively small value of their TV market, the coefficient payments they received far outweighed any extrapolated market pool payment, resulting in ‘additional’ payments of c.€26m each. The biggest winners were all non ‘Big 5’ league clubs, contributing to the swing in revenue towards that category already identified.


At the other end of the spectrum, it was the French teams Monaco and PSG who came out worst off for the change in mechanism, where the relatively strong extrapolated value of their TV market (shared amongst just three French teams) far outweighed the coefficient payments received given the clubs’ lack of historical success on the European stage – with Monaco theoretically losing out on €30m.

Manchester City and Tottenham were also amongst the biggest losers, again due to the strength of the UK TV market compared to their own historical European success.

With all five of the biggest losers coming from ‘Big 5’ leagues, the aforementioned relationship is further cemented.

In summary, while the move to provide a 30% weighting towards European rankings and historical success coefficients may suggest the bigger European teams have the upper hand, in practice by moving the goalposts UEFA has actually redistributed a relatively larger share to those clubs in smaller leagues, with successes of old providing a clear financial advantage to those clubs.