European football clubs’ revenue declines by £3.4bn over pandemic

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The pandemic led to a rare decline in the financial firepower of European football during 2019-20, according to a report that charts how Covid-19 has affected the hierarchy of the continental game.

The combined revenue of European clubs declined by £3.4bn to £22bn, according to the Deloitte Annual Review of Finance, with even the “Big Five” leagues – in England, Spain, German, France and Italy – feeling the pinch.

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It was the first decline in European football revenue since the global financial crisis in 2008-09, although wage costs remained flat, putting pressure on club finances.

While no league escaped the pandemic’s effect on match-day and broadcast revenues, the report reveals how some leagues coped relatively well and others could face lasting ill effects.

The Bundesliga in Germany proved the most resilient, helping it to overtake Spain’s La Liga as the continent’s second-most lucrative league behind the runaway leader, the Premier League.

The completion of the Bundesliga season before the end of the financial year – and only minimal rebates paid to broadcasters that had bought rights to games – made for a relatively small revenue decline of 4%, down £116m to £2.8bn.

La Liga’s revenues came in at £2.7bn after revenues fell 8%, although Deloitte said it expected the Spanish league to regain second spot in 2020-21.

France was the only one of the Big Five to cancel its league, shedding 16% of income to fall to £1.4bn, but Italy’s Serie A fell even further, down 18% to £1.8bn.

Deloitte said France and Italy had suffered badly because of negotiations with media companies that bought television rights, with the rows affecting future payments as well.

As a result, the revenue of clubs in both leagues is likely to stagnate until at least 2021-22, the report predicted. The Bundesliga has also struggled to market itself, meaning it is also predicted to have trouble increasing revenues.

La Liga and the Premier League are likely to see 2019-20 as a blip, with forecasts suggesting a swift rebound.

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Deloitte has previously reported that Premier League revenues fell by 13% from a record £5.2bn in 2018-19 to £4.5bn in 2019-20, the first drop in total revenue in Premier League history, putting clubs on course for heavy losses.

But a rebound to £4.8bn in 2020-21 is expected and £5.2bn the season after, a far stronger recovery than forecast in any of the other top leagues, partly due to the Premier League rolling over rights agreements with existing holders.

Dan Jones, partner and head of the sports business group at Deloitte, said: “It will be a number of years before the full financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on European football is known. But we’re now beginning to see the scale of the financial impact that the pandemic has had on European clubs.”

Deloitte said the figures were complicated by the fact that financial years vary across leagues, as do the extent to which games were postponed, moving them from one year into another.

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