LONDON (Reuters) - New sponsorship deals helped to soften the blow of missing out on Champions League revenues for English Premier League soccer club Manchester United
The 20-times English champions, third in the Premier League, said total revenue fell 14 percent to 106 million pounds ($162 million) in the three months to the end of December.
A lack of European midweek soccer, the consequence of poor form last season, saw the club's broadcasting revenue tumble almost 40 percent and matchday revenue fall eight percent.
However commercial income grew almost 10 percent, thanks to increased sponsorship sales and the overall revenue figure was better than analysts had forecast.
United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said the figures "demonstrate the underlying strength of our business model."
Woodward also welcomed a new three-year TV rights deal worth over 5 billion pounds signed by the 20-team Premier League this week, an increase of 70 percent.
Despite a downturn in their playing fortunes since the retirement of manager Alex Ferguson in 2013, United's brand has proved attractive to big sponsors such as Chevrolet
The club, which is majority owned by the American Glazer family and has 659 million followers globally, is now the world's second richest club behind Spain's Real Madrid.
Management said they expected sponsorship revenue in the current three month period to be higher than a year ago.
EUROPEAN RETURN DEMANDED
The club's board has set manager Louis van Gaal the target of finishing in the top three in the Premier League and returning to European soccer next season.
United have spent around 150 million pounds on players including Argentine winger Angel di Maria and are on target to end their European exile despite some unconvincing performances.
Core profit fell 17 percent to 42 million pounds but that was also ahead of forecasts, thanks to commercial revenue growth and lower wages and costs. United are already two thirds toward a full-year target of 90-95 million pounds with another six months to go.
The club, however, did not increase its full-year profit guidance as a number of player contract negotiations and higher costs are expected in the second half of the year.
Shares in United, added 0.8 percent to $17.38 on the New York Stock Exchange at 1520 GMT, up 13 percent on a year ago, valuing the club at about $2.8 billion.
"With prospects currently looking rather better than in the previous season, the market consensus has recently strengthened and now comes in at a buy," Richard Hunter, Head of Equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said.
(Editing by Keith Weir)