In a world where Financial Fair Play and €100 million transfer fees are a thing, a club's ability to make money is more important than ever. In Italy that's especially true, as the country's continued economic struggles make it harder for most Italian clubs to compete financially with other fiscal giants in football.
So when the latest Deloitte club financial rankings - their so-called "money table" - came out this week to show how clubs did during the 2013/14 season, seeing Napoli in the top 20 was both a surprise and an impressive step forward for the club. In a year where so many English clubs shot up the rankings thanks to a massive increase in their TV revenues, Napoli's accomplishment becomes all the more impressive.
Napoli stand at 16th in the ranking, thanks to income revenues totaling €164.8 million according to the numbers Deloitte was able to put together. It's a bump of almost €50 million from their 12/13 revenues, which according to Deloitte totaled some €116.4 million. Much of that is thanks to Napoli's Champions League incomes for the season, with their €107 million of broadcasting revenue - over €35 million more than the season before - accounting for 65% of their income.
Staying in the Champions League is vital for continued financial success; Napoli consistently make around €100 million per season in revenue, but the only times their income has been this strong has been in years when they play in Europe's top club competition. That means that revenues for this season, when Napoli fell out of the Champions League at the playoff stage, will almost certainly be markedly down from where they were last season.
Napoli do fairly well in terms of commercial revenues, something that comes as little surprise given the club's massive product marketing efforts, but lag well behind the pack in terms of matchday revenues. We've talked about how the aged state of the San Paolo hurts Napoli financially before, but this is the most stark example of it yet: of teams in the top 20 of these rankings, only Inter Milan made less matchday revenue than Napoli's €21 million.
A total of four Italian teams finished in the top 20, with a fifth, AS Roma, coming in at 24th. Juventus had a slight uptick in their revenues to a total of €279 million, but fell a spot in Deloitte's rankings to 10th in the table. AC Milan's continued slide on the pitch meant that their revenues fell sharply as well, with their €249 million in income representing a €14 million drop, serving to dump them to 12th, out of the top ten for the first in in the 18 years Deloitte has put together these rankings. Inter's revenues held fairly steady at €164 million, but increases for other clubs meant that they fell two places in the table to 17th. Roma's €127 million in income wasn't enough to keep them in the top 20, falling from 19th last year to 24th this year.
Now, before you look at these numbers and proclaim that Napoli should have spent more money in the transfer market, here's a few things to consider:
- Deloitte's figures look at income only, not expenditures, so there's no immediate feel for how much each club made in actual profits. Several of the English clubs in the top 20, for example, actually reported a loss for the season.
- Financial Fair Play's limitations on transfer expenditure take both incoming and outgoing transfers in to account, as well as player wages, so the revenues Deloitte gathers only paint a partial picture of what FFP is looking at.
- FFP also judges on incomes vs expenditures for the current season. What you made last season doesn't matter, so Napoli's uncertain footing and ultimate failure in the Champions League losing them that income stream severely hurt their ability to spend big without also selling big.
So while the information Deloitte provides is useful and interesting, it's hardly a be-all, end-all for evidence that Napoli didn't spend enough in the transfer market. That particular picture is far more complicated, but at least this facet of it suggests good overall financial health for the club, something that fewer clubs in Europe seem to be able to proclaim. If anything, Napoli's standing in last season's "money table" gives them all the more reason to fight to secure a place in next season's Champions League, because that financial windfall is more important to achieve every year.