(This is my column from issue 235 of The Gooner.)
It’s spring at last, so it must be the time of year when Forbes come out with their bollocks list of ‘world’s most valuable football clubs’. There are two reasons why this list is a giant pain in the arse: firstly it’s full of supposition, guesswork and unjustified ‘reasoning’ about why certain clubs are worth the figures quoted, and secondly most newspapers and almost everyone on Twitter repeatedly confuses the words ‘most valuable’ with ‘richest’.
Most valuable means ‘worth the most’. Richest means ‘has the most money’. These are two very different concepts. As someone pointed out to me on Twitter, his mum is valuable but is certainly not rich. Arsenal were third on this list between 2007 and 2011, then dropped to fourth in 2012 and stay there this year, with Bayern closing the gap. Obviously no one notices this slight downward trend, but everyone who thinks Arsenal are underperforming and wants to sack the manager, the board, Vic Akers and the tea lady, jumps up and says, ‘FFS, Arsenal are the fourth richest club in the world! They should be winning trophies! Sack everyone!’ And I’m forced to explain over and over that in fact a) this is a list of most valuable clubs, not richest, and b) it’s all a load of bollocks anyway.
If you read the Forbes article, they go into reasonable pseudo-scientific detail on the reasons for their valuation of the top three – Real Madrid, Man Utd and Barca – then expect you to just believe their figures for everything else. But what’s this: Real Madrid are worth 76 per cent more than they were last year? Barca are worth 99 per cent more than they were last year? How come? Sounds to me like either they made an almighty cock up with last year’s valuations, or they have with this year’s. There’s no logical reason for Barca to be worth double what they were last year.
Man Utd, meanwhile, are apparently worth 42 per cent more than they were last year. This is not entirely unreasonable, as big TV deals have been talked about and announced in the last year, and the Man Utd commercial department have definitely been earning their bonuses. If anything, their value as a commercial money-making operation should have increased faster than Barca’s.
What about Arsenal? Our dear club is claimed to be worth a mere three per cent more than it was last year. You almost get a better return from the Post Office; Stan will be disappointed, I’m sure. Arsenal are allegedly worth $1.326bn compared to last year’s $1.292bn. This is about £863m, which would mean that one Arsenal share would be worth less than £14k, though they have not traded that low at all in the last 12 months (I’m ignoring debt, which, because of the amount compared to turnover and the long term nature, is a pretty safe thing to do). I’m the first to admit that the Arsenal share price is only indicative rather than gospel, given that the market for the shares is distorted by having two very big shareholders opposing each other. However, I’d have thought that the new TV deals would logically mean more of an increase for Arsenal than three per cent.
But at least Arsenal and Man U have some publicly traded shares or securities to base a comparison on. Barca and Real are wholly owned by their members, so any valuation is purely hypothetical because no one is going to buy or sell the clubs anyway. Bayern is just over half owned by members, but you can gauge value by how much anyone is prepared to pay for the other half – except of course it’s not an open free-for-all bid process each year, they have ‘partners’ who are firmly in place, so valuations are also only indicative.
All in all, the whole thing is nothing more than a ridiculous publicity stunt by Forbes to get gullible people talking about them. Unfortunately it works. And that’s my final word on the subject.