ZURICH (Reuters) - Europe's top clubs are expanding more rapidly than their smaller rivals, European soccer's governing body UEFA said on Thursday, adding that tighter regulation had helped to prevent teams from running up big losses.
In a report based on the 2015 financial year, UEFA highlighted its concerns over the divide between a handful of rich Western European clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United and the rest.
"UEFA must remain vigilant and take note of the less positive trends also highlighted in the report, such as a return to high wage growth and the increasing concentration of sponsorship and commercial revenue among a handful of clubs," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
The top 15 clubs in Europe had enjoyed growth of 1.51 billion euros ($1.61 billion) in sponsorship and commercial revenue since 2009, compared with growth of 453 million euros for the other 700 top-flight clubs, the report said.
For most clubs, sponsorship and commercial revenues came mainly from shirt sponsorship and kit manufacturer deals as was the case a decade ago, the 130-page report said.
"But for the dozen or so "global super clubs", sponsorship and commercial departments are expanding and sponsorship and commercial partnerships are being sliced and segmented into an ever larger and more lucrative number of deals," it said.
"This is enabling those "global super clubs" to monetise their huge supporter bases, which extend around the globe and which can be accessed far better through social media than was ever possible through traditional marketing in the past.
English Premier League clubs enjoyed a combined revenue of 4.4 billion euros ($4.7 billion), followed by 2.4 billion euros for Germany's Bundesliga, 2.0 billion for Spain's La Liga and 1.9 billion for Serie A in Italy.
Real Madrid had the highest revenue among individual clubs, pulling in 578 million euros, followed by Barcelona, Manchester United, Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus.
The top ten clubs, which all earned over 300 million euros, were followed by Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur, Schalke 04 and AC Milan which earned between 200 and 300 million euros.
A further 31 clubs had revenues over 100 million euros.
"With many concerned about competitive balance within and between leagues, UEFA, together with its stakeholders, will need to continuously review and adapt its regulations to this fast- changing environment," said Andrea Traverso, UEFA's head of club licensing and financial fair play.
UEFA said that overall, clubs have generated operating profits of 1.5 billion euros in the last two years, compared to losses of 700 million in the two years immediately before financial fair play rules forcing them to curb losses were introduced. ($1 = 0.9370 euros)
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Keith Weir