Manchester United will face more than backlash from supporters if they fail to secure entry to the continent's top competition.
The Red Devils sit far on the outside looking in for Champions League football next season, currently seven points adrift of the final spot in ninth place with well over half the season still to play.
United haven’t failed to qualify for Europe’s elite competition since the 1995-96 term, the inaugural 1992-93 tournament being the only other occasion in which they haven’t taken part since the European Cup was rebranded 21 years ago.
And aside from the dissatisfaction fans will show at the side not taking part at the highest level should David Moyes’ charges fail to recover, the Old Trafford outfit would face serious financial implications.
United reported revenues of £363.2 million for the 12-month period ending in June of 2013, a figure that included a pre-tax profit of £108.6 million, even as the club saw a decrease from the year before in Champions League broadcast money due to having finished second in the Premier League the preceding season.
This term the club is on pace to shatter the £400 million revenue mark for the first time in history, pointing to increased takings from the television broadcast money in Europe as an essential boon to the swell in earnings, though projections were based on United at least finishing third in the Premier League and making the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League.
A lack of success in these minimum requirements would already see a drop-off in takings for the current season, a particular example being in a decline from the £61.4 million in domestic prize money received for winning the league crown, whilst in the ensuing campaign more monies would stand to be lost.
United could expect to forfeit a £45 million windfall without participating in the Champions League, based on losses in standard prize money, broadcast revenue streams and matchday sales, without even mentioning the lost global marketing opportunity of featuring on club football’s biggest stage.
For a club that has worked intensively over the past decade to build a globally-recognised brand that has drawn in fans spanning six continents, the ramifications of losing out in this area are particularly damaging.
Commercial income was reported to be £152.5m in the most recent financial year, owing a great deal to the popularity of United well beyond Europe’s borders, with the further expansion of marketing campaigns possibly under threat without Champions League football.
Qualifying for the Europa League would be a lesser financial blow, as ticket sales wouldn’t be lost whilst broadcast deals provide a minimal revenue, but would still represent a departure of over £30 million from what United are accustomed to receiving.
Debts remain in the region of £361million and represent a going concern that would be exacerbated with diminished income, though Phil Adams, chief executive of finance for Manchester firm Altium, told the Manchester Evening News a single season of failure to qualify for the Champions League wouldn’t likely be calamitous financially, though would of course have the consequences aforementioned and a knock-on effect.
image: © Paolo Camera