COVID-19 pandemic set to cost Europe’s top football clubs over £1.7bn

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According to the annual report by financial services firm Deloitte on the finances within football, the COVID-19 pandemic is set to cost Europe’s 20 richest football clubs over £1.7bn by the end of this season.

The Deloitte Football Money League survey found those teams had already lost more than £960m since the start of the pandemic in March.

The loss in revenue is due to the impact of the pandemic, through loss of matchday revenue, and the loss of TV broadcasting money for domestic and European tournaments.

All but two of the teams have retained their spots in the top 20 richest clubs in the world with Zenit St Petersburg and Eintracht Frankfurt replacing AS Roma and West Ham United.

Who are in the top 20?

  1. Barcelona – Annual revenue of £627.1m
  2. Real Madrid – Annual revenue of £627m
  3. Bayern Munich – Annual revenue of £556m
  4. Manchester United – Annual revenues of £509m
  5. Liverpool – Annual revenues of £489.9m
  6. Manchester City – Annual revenues of £481.6m
  7. Paris St-Germain – Annual revenues of £474.1m
  8. Chelsea – Annual revenues of £411.9m
  9. Tottenham Hotspur – Annual revenues of £390m
  10. Juventus – Annual revenues of £349m
  11. Arsenal – Annual revenues of £340.3m
  12. Borussia Dortmund – Annual revenues of £320.7m
  13. Atletico Madrid – Annual revenues of £291m
  14. Inter Milan – Annual revenues of £255.6m
  15. Zenit St Petersburg – Annual revenues of £207.4m
  16. Schalke – Annual revenues of £195.4m
  17. Everton – Annual revenues of £185.9m
  18. Lyon – Annual revenues of £158.5m
  19. Napoli – Annual revenues of £154.6m
  20. Eintracht Frankfurt – Annual revenues of £152.6m

What has been the true impact?

One of the leading figures behind the report Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said: “There is no doubt that this is one of the most testing times the football industry has ever had to endure. “While no football club has been immune to the challenges of Covid-19, and other clubs have suffered more in relative terms, those in the Money League have borne the greatest financial impact in absolute value terms.

“The safe return of fans to stadia in significant numbers is one of the highest priorities across global football. Matchday operations are a cornerstone of a club’s business model and help drive other revenue-generating activity.

“Fans’ absence will be more fully reflected in next year’s Money League. The final size of the financial impact of the pandemic on football will depend, in no small part, on the timing and scale of fans’ return.”

“We remain strong believers in the fundamental value of top-level football to fans, broadcasters and other commercial partners,” insists Jones.

“We are confident in the resilience of the industry and expect it to bounce back strongly in future years.

“The events of the past year have challenged the ability of clubs to drive their own revenue growth. Any short-term ambitions they may have had will likely only be achievable as medium-term goals once fans return to stadia and the effect of the pandemic on the global economy and the path to recovery from it becomes clearer.

“However, the full financial impact of COVID-19 may not be realised for years to come.”

HAS FOOTBALL’S ECONOMIC FRAILTY BEEN EXPOSED?

With football struggling as a result of the pandemic, the clubs and governing bodies have had to scramble together to try and protect the game as best they can. However, it could also be argued that the sport has had this sort of impact coming for a long time, due to its over-reliance on TV money and short-term view of finances.

John Purcell, co-founder of Vysyble, comments:: “COVID-19 is just the accelerant of the smouldering problem that has been there for some time in football. If football had recognised its financial issues a lot earlier, then it could have done something about it, and been prepared to deal with the current crisis. The pandemic would have still caused issues, but the impact could have been lessened if football had started to tackle its financial dependence on TV money and looked into how the sport has been financed.

“If teams had been preparing for an event like this, that could seriously damage the club, then they would have been more resilient to its impact. When you look at last season, there was a £1bn loss across the Premier League and Championship – it is difficult to see what can be done to help teams going through this current crisis.”

Due to clubs short-sighted view of finances, many have had to look for alternative forms of finances, in order to secure their future in football.

Purcell continues: “There have been many clubs considering short-term financial options to help them through this. The issue with short-term financing is that it has already been used for a long time within the Premier League. That is because the banks are not the biggest supporters of football – and that football clubs tend to take a shorter-term view of finances compared to other businesses.

“With regards to next season – all clubs could face the same problem. Yes, they could still be losing matchday revenues if fans are still not allowed to attend games – but, you cannot sell season tickets. A lot of the financing that is done by football clubs is based on using the season ticket money as collateral. This means that they are hedged against future sales. But with those sales not being there, then there is a massive issue with your lenders. Whilst matchday revenues are a critical component to running a football club, there are many knock-on impacts that will start to manifest themselves over time. This will put clubs in a very difficult position.”

However, Premier League teams could be in luck. Due to the value and T&Cs of the latest TV broadcasting deals, clubs have been able to absorb the initial blow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hovell comments: “The reality is that since the last major TV deal, the Premier League have brought in constraints on what they can spend that money on. For example, they cannot just go and spend it all on new players, and limits on other areas. This decision has meant that a lot of Premier League clubs have become profitable businesses. They are in a much better position to weather the storm, than they would have been if this had happened three years ago. However, this doesn’t play down the severe impact that a loss in sponsorship and matchday revenues has had on the business side of the sport.”

Some of the more innovative teams among the English and European elite have placed themselves at the forefront of the recovery, due to new approaches to how the financial aspect of a football club should be run in the modern era.

Pauline Rigby, Partner and Head of Corporate at Forbes Solicitors, said: “The pandemic and lockdown have really crystallised how much clubs rely heavily on two revenue streams of TV money and matchday income. While these will continue to be important, you can expect to see clubs become increasingly creative in generating other sources of income in the future. Some of the most astute, and often larger clubs, are already excelling in this by agreeing lucrative sponsorship and partnership deals. However, we’re also seeing other clubs, like the parent company of Manchester City FC, building global brands through takeovers and selling stakes of ownership.

“It’s reasonable to think that other clubs will start looking at these more traditional corporate routes to funding, whether its joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions or raising capital through part sales. This will diversify risk for football clubs and can also help them to expand their presence in markets outside of England.”

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