13 Things You Never Knew About European Soccer

This week the governing body of European soccer, UEFA, released its massive annual report on the state of the sport.

It’s called The European Club Footballing Landscape, and it covers the finances and transfer activities of 700 clubs big and small across Europe. It’s incredibly rich — a treasure trove of interesting nuggets about the continent’s biggest sport.

Some of the internal financial data is from last season, but it still gives you a general idea of the trends dominating European soccer.

Even if you follow the sport closely, some of the numbers in here will come as a surprise.

Here are the 13 most interesting things from the report.

1. Money really does buy championships. 56% (29 of 52) of the clubs that had the highest payroll in their leagues won the domestic title. 77% of them finished either first or second.

2. Elite players are migrating to England. Between 2009 and 2014, 38% of players who transferred for $US20 million+ went to the EPL.

3. Brazilians are the best players in Europe, at least based on transfer amounts.

4. Coaches get fired with insane frequency. The average tenure of current coaches is just 17 months.

5. Most leagues are tiny, by American standards. 44 of the 53 top divisions have 16 teams or fewer.

6. Big teams dominate small countries. Almost half the soccer fans in Portugal (47%) support a single team, Benfica. For comparison, just 15% of fans in England support the country’s most popular club, Manchester United.

7. The English 2nd division has the 8th-highest average attendance in Europe. They draw more fans than the 1st divisions of Portugal, Russia, and Turkey.

8. Attendance is declining in many leagues. Seventeen leagues saw attendance decrease by 5% or more between 2012 and 2013, while 10 teams saw attendance increase by 5% of more.

9. The Russian Premier League is exploding. Revenue grew 38% between 2011 and 2012, and 134% in the last five years.

10. The teams in three leagues (the English, Spanish, and Italian 1st divisions) account for 50% of spending on player transfers.

11. Most teams are losing money. 57% of teams reported losses in FY2012.

12. The English Premier League is huge. The average EPL team earns almost 3x as much revenue as the average Italian Serie A team.

13. Despite not having a union, players earn a similar share of total revenue than they do in American sports. 52% of revenue went to player wages and transfers, which is similar to the revenue breakdown in the NBA and NFL:

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