European Leagues Beyond ‘Big Five’

June 12, 2024

European Leagues Beyond ‘Big Five’ - SBI Barcelona

When it comes to football content, the discussion mostly centres around the ‘big five’ leagues. It is, but natural since the five leagues combined contribute €17.45bn or 60% of European football revenue in 2021/22. Continuous flow of content has been curated around these and it isn’t expected to stop

We, however, decided to veer away from the five top leagues and focus our attention on the next five leagues in European football. In this post, we understand more about them about their revenues, transfer spends and why clubs from some of these leagues are on the radar of private equity investment firms in order to bolster their multi-club structure

Five Beyond Five

The first question, who are the next five leagues. According to cumulative club revenue figures, as per UEFA European Club Finance & Investment Landscape Report, they are

  • Russian Premier League
  • Eredivisie, The Netherlands
  • Primeira Liga, Portugal
  • Süper Lig, Turkey
  • Jupiler Pro League, Belgium

Combined revenue of these five leagues is €3.26bn contributing about 11% of the total European revenue

European Leagues Beyond ‘Big Five’ - SBI Barcelona

Russian Premier League, the biggest of them, has the total revenue of just over €1bn (2021/22) with an average club revenue of €66m almost twice that of the other 4 leagues

Elemental Overview

Some of the most striking points on deep-diving in the revenue by element are:

  • While the average revenue contribution from commercial stream is 41%, it’s high in case of Russian and Turkish leagues at 59% and 48% respectively. In case of Portuguese league, the share is concentrated towards the top clubs and low in case of remaining clubs keeping the average at 20%
  • High wages-to-revenue ratio in case of Turkish Süper Lig and Belgian Jupiler Pro League
  • High non-commercial income (majorly consisting of non-football income in the form of state or municipal subsidies or rebates, related-party donations) especially in Russian & Belgian pro leagues
  • Strong contribution of income from UEFA competitions particularly in case of Portuguese and Dutch leagues at 32% and 19% respectively
  • High attendance per match in the Dutch, Portuguese and Belgian leagues at 94%, 65% and 67% respectively
European Leagues Beyond ‘Big Five’ - SBI Barcelona

Attractive Proposition for Investment

Both first and second division leagues from Belgium and Portugal rank high in terms of private capital investment, multi-club ownership as well foreign investment and the Dutch leagues moderately so

Why would that be?

The answer can be attributed to three key factors:

  • High OPEX in these leagues: 44% OPEX in Dutch Eredivisie, 39% in Portuguese league and 47% in Belgian Pro League leading to a constant demand for additional funds / investments
  • Easier regulations make it simple and open for foreign investments
  • High footballing standards makes it a suitable source of quality footballers. 23/24 summer transfer activity illustrates the point. Except Turkey Süper Lig, all the other four leagues generated positive net spends which means more valuable player sold than bought 

The resulting situation makes Belgium, Portugal and The Netherlands suitable for such investments. A glimpse of the investment scenario in the last 5 years can be seen in the infographic

European Leagues Beyond ‘Big Five’ - SBI Barcelona


All the above factors make these leagues promising for investment purposes especially in the multi-club ownership perspective. However, there is & will be backlash from local club supporters complaining about acting as feeder clubs for the marquee club in the ‘big five’ leagues.

Investors will have to address this issue in order to succeed

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