Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City Football Club raked in more than US$362m during the 2011-12 football season, making it one of the most lucrative clubs of any sport in the world, according to a Deloitte analysis.
The club increased its revenue by 51 percent during the season, the largest increase of any football club that year.
The rapid influx of money saw Manchester City climb five places to seventh on the Deloitte Football Money League ladder, according to annual revenue earnings.
Investment from Middle Eastern airlines had a major influence on football club earnings during the 2011-12 season, contributing to four of the top 10 clubs on the Money League list.
Real Madrid, sponsored by Emirates, topped the list for the eighth consecutive year after taking in US$650.5m.
It’s Spanish rival, Barcelona, which is backed by Qatar Foundation, came in second with US$613m.
The fourth Middle Eastern-linked club was Arsenal, which jumped to sixth place following an extension of its sponsorship deal with Emirates.
Under the new US$235.3m deal – significantly larger than the previous agreement -the airline will be the club’s shirt sponsor until the end of the 2018-19 season and retain the stadium naming rights until 2028.
According to Deloitte, the top 20 highest earning football clubs generated a total US$6.1bn – an increase of 10 percent – during 2011-12.
The analyst said the football clubs had managed to defy economic pressures because of their global appeal, including to the Middle East.
“The development of the Middle East as a global playmaker continues apace,” Deloitte’s Julian Hawkins said.
“We have watched the growth and competition amongst the region’s airlines over recent years and it follows that these companies are aligning themselves with leading brands in football.
“Partnering with the top clubs in Europe is an open goal for these companies: it resonates well with their respective markets, as well as with international customers.”
Since Abu Dhabi bought Manchester City FC in September 2008, for a reported GBP£200m (US$316m), it has spent more than any other Premier League club on new players, helping it to win its first premiership in 44 years in 2011-12.