Poland and Turkey have been the most prolific developers of football stadia in Europe over the past decade, according to the findings of a new UEFA report detailing that clubs in the continent’s top divisions were profitable for the second year running.
European football’s governing body has published the 11th edition of its annual European Club Footballing Landscape report, analysing the 2017-18 financial reports from all 712 clubs in the top divisions.
The report also gives an insight into stadium development trends on the continent, focusing on outdoor stadia with a capacity of over 5,000 completed between 2010 and 2019. A wide range of stadium projects have been completed since 2010, from the 5,000-seat Acre Municipal Stadium in Israel to Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium (pictured), which has a capacity of 81,000.
A total of 243 stadium projects were said to have been undertaken in Europe over the past decade, in 43 countries. UEFA said 48% of these were new builds, 38% renovations and 14% rebuilds. Stadia with a capacity of 25,000-plus accounted for 45% of these projects.
The report states that 85% of all stadiums built in the last 10 years have a club or national association as their anchor tenant, or were constructed for a major sporting event. Moreover, at least 20 stadiums are due to be completed by the end of 2020, with UEFA stating this demonstrates that stadium development is a “constant and ongoing feature” of Europe’s football landscape.
Turkey and Poland are the only two countries to have completed 20 or more stadium projects in the last decade. Poland was more active in the first half of the decade, ahead of its co-hosting of Euro 2012, whereas the growth seen in stadium projects in Turkey kicked off around 2016. In terms of size, the stadium projects carried out in Russia had the highest cumulative capacity at just over 700,000 as the country geared up to stage the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Seven countries built new national stadiums, while four countries, such as Poland and Russia, undertook projects as a result of hosting major football tournaments. However, UEFA stated that stadium ownership remains the exception rather than the rule for European clubs.
The report states that only 12% of Europe’s top-tier clubs directly own their stadiums and just 18% of clubs’ stadiums are fully included on their balance sheets. There are just five countries where at least half of all top-division clubs have their stadiums on their balance sheets: England (15 out of 20 clubs), Germany (11 out of 18 clubs), Northern Ireland (six out of 12 clubs), Scotland (10 out of 12 clubs) and Spain (15 out of 20 clubs).
Stadium ownership remains even more exceptional outside of the top 20 leagues, where only 38 out of 397 clubs have their stadiums fully included on their balance sheets as club assets. Indeed, there are 16 countries where no clubs own their own stadiums.
When it comes to matchday revenue, the report states the top 14 leagues all reported gate receipt growth in 2018, driving the 8% increase that was observed across Europe as a whole. English Premier League clubs generated €723m (£616.3/$804.6m) in gate receipts in 2018, a 4% increase in euro terms and an 8% increase in domestic currency terms.
Gate receipts made the largest contribution to total revenue in Scotland (43%), where Hibernian’s return to the top flight led to a 19% increase in gate receipts in 2018. At the other end of the scale, gate receipts generated just 7% of revenue in Denmark and Russia.
Eight other countries also reported double-digit growth rates – Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, Portugal, Russia, Greece and Denmark. Turkish clubs, in particular, posted a 52% increase in gate receipts, with UEFA stating this was driven by growth at İstanbul Başakşehir (+158%) and a positive impact stemming from clubs’ promotions and relegations. Italy, meanwhile, reported a 24% increase, driven mainly by strong improvements at three of Serie A’s giants – AC Milan (+120%), AS Roma (+44%) and Inter Milan (+30%).
UEFA noted that while clubs’ other revenue streams have generally grown over the past decade, despite Europe’s economic climate, gate receipts actually declined between 2008 and 2014 following the global financial crisis. The situation has improved over the past four seasons, with gate receipts increasing at an average rate of 6% per year between 2014 and 2018. However, across the full 10-year period gate receipts declined as a percentage of overall revenue, from 21% in 2008 to 15% in 2018.
On a general note, club profits were registered as €140m in 2017-18. The 2016-17 report detailed the first profitable year with a mark of €615m. UEFA highlighted that a second consecutive year of overall profitability represents a major recovery compared with the €5bn of losses that were recorded in just three years at the turn of the decade before the Financial Fair Play regulations were introduced.
In the foreword to the report, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: “As financial performance has improved, clubs’ financial position has become significantly healthier, with net assets increasing from less than €2bn to more than €9bn in the space of a decade, a testament to the success of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, the stable European football ecosystem and sustained and sensible investment.”
The 132-page report highlighted how the stable European football ecosystem has helped club football to 20 consecutive years of revenue growth. Top division European club revenues increased in total from €20bn to €21bn in 2018. However, it also points out that revenues continue to focus on those generated by the ‘big five’ leagues, with their share reaching a record high of 75%, up from last year’s mark of 69%.
The report found the combined revenues of the 20 English Premier League clubs, €5.4bn, was more than the 617 clubs in all 50 leagues below the top four. The Premier League also continues to comfortably lead the way ahead of its nearest European rivals, with German Bundesliga clubs bringing in €3.2bn, Spanish LaLiga teams €3.1bn, Serie A clubs €2.3bn and French Ligue 1 teams €1.7bn.
Other key findings in the report include that average domestic top division league attendances reached a record high in 2018-19 with 105 million spectators in total. UEFA said improving stadium infrastructure led to an eight per cent increase in ticketing revenues.
Čeferin added: “The report highlights a number of threats to continued European football stability and success. These include the risks of globalisation-fuelled revenue polarisation, of a fragmenting media landscape and of cases of over-dependence on transfer activity revenue. The report also shows that European club football is strong, united and resilient, and I am certain that European football can and will overcome these challenges and others just as successfully as we dealt with the threat of spiralling losses in the recent past.”