LONDON - A slump in the pound's value cost Manchester United the chance to leapfrog Real Madrid at the top of Deloitte's yearly list of the world's richest clubs, underlining how the global economic downturn is creating a new balance of spending power in football.
Premier League and Champions League triumphs boosted United's revenues for the 2007-2008 campaign by 21 percent, outstripping growth of 4 percent at Real.
But because the accountancy group's table ranks clubs by their revenues in euros, United's stellar season was not enough to knock Real off their perch.
The Spanish giants generated ß365,8 million (about R4,7 billion) last season, ahead of United (ß324,8million), Barcelona (ß308,8million) and Bayern Munich (ß295,3million).
Bayern were the most significant movers in the table, climbing from seventh to fourth on the back of increased matchday revenues after their full acquisition of the Allianz Arena stadium.
Fenerbahce became the first Turkish club to enter the top 20, coming in at 19th place with revenues of just over ß111million.
With the world's top clubs effectively operating in a global market, the survey highlights how the severity of the recession in Britain - anticipation of which triggered a 15 percent fall in the pound over the course of last season - is having an impact on the relative economic strength of the country's top clubs.
Had the pound remained around its June 2007 levels, United would have topped the table, nine English clubs would have been in the top 20, rather than seven, and Celtic would not have been ejected from the elite.
The picture for British clubs could look even worse by the end of this season with the pound currently around 10percent lower against the euro than it was at the end of last season.
Dan Jones, one of the authors of the Deloitte report, said Real would be hard to displace from the top of the financial tree.
"Four percent revenue growth in 2007-08 is more modest than recent years but Real has doubled revenues since 2002, it is ß41million ahead of Manchester United and it is budgeting for revenues of more than ß400million in 2008-09," Jones said.
Fenerbahce were joined by VfB Stuttgart and Manchester City as new entrants to the top 20, with Valencia, Werder Bremen and Celtic making way.
City were boosted by increased television revenues in the season prior to the arrival of the club's Abu Dhabi-based owners.
Despite the global downturn, the football business continues to grow with the aggregate revenue of the top 20 clubs up 6 percent on the previous season and triple the levels recorded when the first money list was published for 1996-97. - Sapa-AFP