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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Earn it like Bayern

Bayern's profits shine in fickle football economy

In the mid 60s, the executives of a minuscule football club from southern Germany, Bayern Munich, travelled north to Cologne to visit the country’s most successful team. They wanted to learn how to run a professional sports club. And learn they did. Bayern has dominated the Bundesliga, Germany’s professional league, ever since.

It has also shown that the sport can be run as a financially successful business. The club has made a profit 20 years in a row. Revenue in the 2011/12 season rose 14 percent to 332 million euros, with EBITDA up 63 percent to 69 million euros. And Bayern sits on a cash pile of 127 million euros.

Good regulation and steady ownership do matter. Bundesliga rules require that more than 50 percent of the voting shares in the professional team belong to the club and its members. This prevents star-struck Russian oligarchs, bored U.S. businessmen or spendthrift sheikhs burning hundreds of millions buying professional teams on hazardous business plans. It also repels investors of the private equity type. Next to the club, two corporate investors (Adidas and Audi) each hold about 9 percent of the shares in the professional team.

Bayern’s careful avoidance of the celebrity carnival sort that is the norm at clubs like Real Madrid or Manchester United is another reason for its economic success. The club shuns vanity hires, runs a successful academy, and keeps a significantly lower salary bill than its competitors. Bayern only spends 50 percent of its revenue on players’ wages - against 70 percent for the average English club, according to Deloitte. On the revenue side, German rules limit the clubs’ over-dependence on TV rights, inducing prudent behaviour.

Bayern’s financial clout should keep growing. The club is currently looking for a third external investor to pay about 100 million euros for a 9 percent share of the professional entity. And a listing isn’t on the cards.

In the near future, new financial “fair play” rules implemented by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), will hamper all teams’ ability to go on unsustainable spending sprees. This will play to Bayern’s advantage, and further consolidate its standing both on the domestic and international stage.

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FC Bayern Munich, the German football club, on Nov. 15 published the best results of its 112-year history. Revenue in its last fiscal year rose 14 percent to 332.2 million euros. Thirty nine percent was due to match-day earnings like ticket revenue. Sponsorship deals amounted to 25 percent of total, with merchandising at 17 percent and TV rights at 11 percent. It paid 165.6 million euros (49.8 percent of the revenue) on player salaries.

The team, which lost the 2012 Champions League final against Chelsea on penalties and did not win any domestic title last season, is the fourth-biggest professional football club in the world by revenue, behind Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, according to figures by Deloitte.

In the 2011/12 season, the EBITDA of the club increased by 63.8 percent to 69.3 million euros, after-tax-profit added up to 11.1 million. The club has an equity capital of 278.3 million euros and cash reserves of 127.2 million euros.

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