Liverpool against Real Madrid in the Champions League final is a fixture for football fans to savor – the two legends are battling for one of the most prized trophies in the sport. And regardless of the outcome, some will even see the match as a victory for football over geopolitics and big money.
A place in the final for both these sides meant that other powerful teams were knocked out along the way. There is no Manchester City, a club heavily criticized for the lavish resources it receives from the Abu Dhabi government. There is no Paris Saint-Germain, which is funded by the vast wealth of Qatar.
There is no sign of Chelsea, the defending European champions, who until recently enjoyed the financial backing of a billionaire with strong connections to Russian leaders and Russian gas.
So perhaps this year’s Champions League final is really a win for football purists – a chance to support traditional clubs, untainted by their rivals’ vast wealth and questionable politics.
But before anyone throws nostalgia over it, it’s worth remembering that Liverpool vs Real Madrid is not a simple matter of elevating the old-fashioned sporting values to the beautiful game.
For a start, both clubs have traditionally had strong political associations; Reds with left and Los Blancos with right.
And both sides have openly embraced the ideology of the free market, making them one of the wealthiest clubs in the world. In the 2022 ranking of clubs by revenue, Real Madrid (which has topped the list 12 times in the past 25 years) is second with €640.1 million (£544.2 million), while Liverpool €550.4 million (£544.2 million). £) in seventh place. 467.9 million).
Then, both teams earn and spend large amounts of money. For example, Liverpool have one of football’s most commercially lucrative kit deals (along with Nike), while Real Madrid still have the appetite to spend big bucks on top players.
And it would be nave to think that clubs have no interest in getting even richer. Indeed, just a year ago, Liverpool and Real Madrid were among eight football clubs that announced controversial plans to create a European Super League.
This was a scheme explicitly designed to accelerate the flow of revenue to already prosperous clubs at the expense of other sides across Europe.
The Liverpool owners eventually withdrew from the offer, at least for the time being. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez however, still seems intent on getting his way and starting a different league.
So while it is true that none of this year’s Champions League finals have been affected by oil and gas revenue, they remain prime examples of free market football, and the cash it brings.
The graphics below allow us to take a holistic view of the investments and sponsorships surrounding both clubs, all of which are in the public domain. Each circle represents an economic “actor” (a club, a business or an individual), while each connecting line represents a significant economic transaction.
A closer look at Liverpool’s most lucrative commercial deals reveals that the club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, which also boasts the Boston Red Sox in its portfolio, amassed a large network of entertainment businesses and properties in the US. Is.
This includes Redbird Capital Partners, a “high-profile dealmaker” in the professional sports world, and Gerry Cardinale, co-founder of Redball Acquisition Corp., Billy Bean (of Moneyball fame) and Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network.
Another business of note is the SpringHill Company, an entertainment development and production firm headed by basketball star LeBron James, with tennis player Serena Williams on its board of directors. James is also a shareholder of Liverpool FC.
Although not openly political, Liverpool’s privately owned and US-focused operations embody a free market ideology that has become increasingly prominent in European football over the past two decades.
At first glance, Real Madrid would seem to be a very different animal. The club is owned by its members – known as “socials” – who vote the club’s officials in and out of office.
But the graphic of its commercial deals and ties shows how closely it is linked to foreign money. There are links with Qidia, an entertainment “mega-project” under construction in Saudi Arabia and with a Chinese bank that issues a Real Madrid branded credit card.
It also has commercial relationships with Abu Dhabi Bank and Emirates Airline in the United Arab Emirates, Sela Sports, an event management company based in Saudi Arabia, and technology firms in South Korea and China.
Overall, a lot of money has been put into both the sides playing for the trophy. And the political side of the game is arguably more apparent than ever.
This year’s Champions League tournament began with Russian energy giant Gazprom as the main sponsor, with the final to be held in Vladimir Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg.
After the invasion of Ukraine, the final was moved to Paris, and the deal with Gazprom ended. So despite being freed from Russia’s influence and fortunes created through oil and gas, the match still represents two major players in the modern game: politics and business.