* United reap rewards of higher sponsorship, TV deals
* Financial boost for new club leadership
* Club plays down talk Glazers could cash in part of stake
By Keith Weir
LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - New sponsorship and broadcast deals are expected to drive record revenues for English soccer champions Manchester United in 2013-14 and help them catch up with European rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona.
United, controlled by the American Glazer family, forecast on Wednesday that revenues would rise by up to 18.5 percent to between 420 and 430 million pounds ($668-684 million) in the year to next June, compared with the previous 12 months.
That was based on the team under new manager David Moyes finishing at least third in the English Premier League and reaching the quarter-finals of Europe’s Champions League and domestic cups. United have made the top three every year since the Premier League was launched in 1992.
United are already Britain’s richest soccer club and will benefit from enhanced Premier League TV rights deals that began last month and new club sponsorship deals including a particularly lucrative one with General Motors.
“Our commercial business continues to be a very powerful engine of growth enabling the team to continue to be successful,” Ed Woodward, the new executive vice chairman, said in a statement reporting the results of the stock-market listed club.
Revenues in the year to June 2013 came in at 363 million pounds, just ahead of the club’s forecast and an increase of 13 percent from the previous year, it said.
Profit was 108.6 million pounds, excluding items such as interest and tax payments, up by almost 19 percent.
Madrid are the only soccer club to have so far broken the 500 million euro ($668 million) revenue barrier but their Spanish rivals Barcelona expect to do so this season.
Madrid bought attacking player Gareth Bale from English club Tottenham Hotspur in August for a world record 100 million euros, while Barcelona has paid 57 million euros to recruit striker Neymar from Brazilian club Santos.
By contrast, Moyes and former investment banker Woodward, who holds the top executive role at the club, have faced criticism from fans and media commentators after Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini was United’s sole high-profile recruit during the recent transfer window, for 27.5 million pounds. The pursuit of other top players proved unsuccessful.
United listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year, a long way from their home in northern England where the club was founded 135 years ago.
The stock has risen from its flotation price of $14 and traded 1.7 percent higher at $17.4 in early business on Wednesday, valuing the club at around $2.8 billion.
In an official market filing, United gave themselves the option of raising up to $400 million through fresh share sales and set tongues wagging by saying the Glazers could also seek to cash in part of their stake after buying the club in 2005.
A vocal section of United fans have criticised the Glazers for loading the club with debt in a 790 million pound takeover and have campaigned against their ownership.
However, the club played down talk of an imminent share sale to raise new money or cut the family holding. The Glazers retain an 89.8 percent stake in the club after the flotation, giving them 98.7 percent of voting power because of the two different classes of shares that exist.
“There are no current plans around a primary or secondary (share) issuance,” Woodward told analysts.
Gross debt was down 11 pct at 389.2 million in the year to June 2013, with the club mainly using proceeds from the flotation to cut it down.
Moyes, who joined on a six-year contract, has the tough task of succeeding Ferguson, the most successful manager in English soccer. United are fifth in the Premier League after four games and on Tuesday won their opening match in the Champions League, Europe’s top club competition.