Football: Man United revenues hit by Champions League absence

Portugal players take part in a training session at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England on Nov 17, 2014, ahead of the international friendly football match between Portugal and Argentina on Nov 18. English Premier League club Mancheste
Portugal players take part in a training session at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England on Nov 17, 2014, ahead of the international friendly football match between Portugal and Argentina on Nov 18. English Premier League club Manchester United suffered a 10 per cent fall in first-quarter revenue, as the absence of lucrative Champions League football this season took its toll. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - English Premier League club Manchester United suffered a 10 per cent fall in first-quarter revenue, as the absence of lucrative Champions League football this season took its toll.

United, currently seventh in the table and still struggling with what has been a dismal transition since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in May 2013, said total revenue fell to 88.7 million pounds (S$178.6 million) in the three months to Sept 30.

That compared to 98.5 million pounds posted a year ago but was ahead of an analyst consensus forecast of 86 million pounds.

"While we recognise that the 2014-15 fiscal year financial results will reflect our absence from the Champions League... we are excited to focus our efforts on the meaningful growth opportunities in sponsorship, digital media and retail and merchandising," United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said.

Under Dutchman Louis van Gaal, who took over as coach for the start of the season after an ill-fated spell for Ferguson's replacement David Moyes, the club have spent 150 million pounds on the likes of Argentinian winger Angel di Maria and young English defender Luke Shaw to improve their fortunes.

Progress has been mixed, however, and the 20-times champions are 13 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea after 11 games. They have also been knocked out of the League Cup.

Despite their erratic form and a series of injury problems, Woodward said January's transfer window would likely be a quieter affair, with the club not looking for short-term fixes. "We have targets that we are looking at for next summer, should any of those become available in January, which is obviously rare, we will consider acting, but that is a low probability," he told financial analysts.

United, majority owned by the American Glazer family, reiterated expectations for lower full-year revenue of 385 million to 395 million pounds, down from 433 million last year, and core earnings of 90-95 million, down from 130 million last year.

The expectations are based on a third-place league finish.

Core earnings fell 8.6 per cent to 20.3 million pounds in three months to the end of September, with rising sponsorship money and a lower wage bill helping to bring them in ahead of a consensus forecast of 14.5 million pounds.

The club's global appeal, which is says stretches to 659 million followers, continued to prove lucrative, with five sponsorship deals signed in the quarter as well as a world-record 750 million pound kit deal with adidas.

However, its broadcasting and match-day revenues took a hit, falling 13 and 22 per cent respectively, as the impact of last season's failure to qualify for the Champions League, Europe's top club competition, was laid bare.

This season is the club's first without European football for over two decades, meaning United miss out on regular midweek fixtures with rivals from the continent.

United shares, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at US$16.29 on Monday, flat on a year ago, valuing the club at about US$2.7 billion.