Soccer clubs expected to raise more money in equity and debt

By PAN PYLASFeaturesAssociated Press

European soccer clubs, already awash with billions of new television money, will find it increasingly attractive to raise money in equity and debt markets as a result of their "more sophisticated" business models, credit ratings agency DBRS said Thursday.

In a report, the agency said the value of sports franchises and soccer clubs has increased significantly as teams have diversified their revenue sources and monetized their brands.

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"We believe in future, football clubs will raise capital in different forms," said Valentino Teobaldo Daprile, a senior vice president and head of EU corporates at DBRS. "This is the consequence of football's growing economic importance."

Over the past couple of decades, especially in the last few years, soccer clubs in the big leagues have witnessed a massive revenue boost, particularly from a rise in rights fees. That's been particularly notable in England's Premier League, where Sky and BT are collectively paying 5.1 billion pounds ($6.6 billion) over three years. On top of that, the 2016-19 overseas rights are generating more than 3 billion pounds.

Citing figures from consulting firm Deloitte, DBRS noted that soccer's economic clout is visible in the fact that the European soccer market is set to exceed 25 billion euros ($29 billion) in the 2016/17 season.

For agencies like DBRS, which would assign a rating to a club looking to raise money, it's not just the pot of money that's important.

"The more they are able to diversify, the better the rating," said Daprile.

DBRS noted that for top clubs, the on-pitch performance is not as important as it used to be when assessing credit risks. More important are the popularity of the league and the strength of the team's brand. It noted AC Milan as one big club that has managed to cope with a period of poor sporting results.

In the 2015/16 season, again using figures from consulting firm Deloitte, DBRS showed that revenues of many of Europe's top clubs have become less reliant on what happens on the day of a match. It also viewed developments such as UEFA's 'Financial Fair Play,' which aims to ensure financial sustainability across Europe, as supportive of ratings.

Manchester United, the number one in terms of revenue, saw 20 percent of its 689 million-euro ($810 million) revenue come from match-day income, 27 percent from broadcasting and 53 percent from commercial activities. For Barcelona, the number 2 club, the split was similar, at 20 percent, 33 percent and 48 percent respectively. And again for Bayern Munich, fourth in terms of revenue behind Real Madrid, it was 17 percent, 25 percent and 58 percent.