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LaLiga spells out costs of COVID-19

LaLiga, the organising body of the top two divisions of Spanish club football, has said COVID-19 has cost its member clubs €2.013bn (£1.74bn/$2.43bn) in lost revenue, but president Javier Tebas stated the improving situation in Spain could see fans return to stadia before the end of the season.

The financial figures are taken from a report undertaken by consulting firm PwC. According to the Palco23 website, LaLiga generated €4.777bn in revenue for the 2018-19 season, with this mark projected to have risen to €5.167bn for 2019-20 and €5.269bn for 2020-21 if the global pandemic hadn’t occurred.

The 2019-20 season, which was partly affected by COVID-19, is said to have cost clubs €366m in revenue, with this rising to €1.647bn for the full 2020-21 season impacted by the pandemic. With games in Spain having been played behind closed doors since the outbreak in March 2020, matchday revenue has taken the greatest hit – some €848m across the two seasons.

However, the PwC report noted that clubs have acted to address the revenue shortfall by reducing their total expenses by €984m. This has allowed the net financial impact of COVID-19 to stand at €1.03bn.

In December, LaLiga secured a €67m loan that will be distributed to 11 clubs to aid their financial situation during COVID-19. In what it claimed was one of the first major loans to a top European league, LaLiga selected UK financial services company Rights & Media Funding Limited to lend the funds under identical five-year terms.

LaLiga worked with independent financial services provider JB Capital and Perez Llorca, a Spanish law firm, to invite lenders to participate in negotiations to deliver funding to strengthen the liquidity of clubs in the second tier Segunda División, as well as those promoted to LaLiga for the 2020-21 season.

Commenting on the PwC report, Tebas said: “COVID put us in an economic test (to assess) what capacity and solvency we had to adjust to that situation. We are already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite €2bn less revenue, the clubs have been able to withstand this crisis.”

While some football leagues around Europe have returned fans to stadia at various stages during the pandemic, LaLiga has not had fans in its venues since COVID-19 first took hold. However, with cases decreasing and the rollout of the vaccination programme, Tebas sounded an optimistic note on the chances of fans returning before the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Tebas said, according to Marca: “We are prepared to have fans in the stadiums, but we must speak with the CSD (Spanish Sports Council), on what dates and the number of fans. My hope is to have fans in the stadiums for the last few games this season, but the CSD and ministries will have to speak with health (authorities). We will have to see the progress of the vaccination.

“Perhaps for the last week of April or beginning of May. Today (Tuesday), the vice-president of the Comunidad of Madrid has said that across 300 cultural shows held, no outbreak had been detected.”