European football market contracts in face of COVID-19

The European football market saw overall revenues drop for the first time since the global financial crisis in 2008-09, as the initial impact of COVID-19 saw it contract by 13% to €25.2bn (£21.45bn/$29.9bn) in 2019-20, according to Deloitte.

The professional services company’s Sports Business Group has released its 30th Annual Review of Football Finance focusing on the 2019-20 financial year, the latter part of which coincided with the pandemic beginning to take grip across the world.

For 2019-20, Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues – the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish LaLiga, Italian Serie A and French Ligue 1 – represented a record-high 60% share of the European football market, bearing the most significant financial impact with combined revenues declining by 11% year-on-year to €15.1bn.

In revenue terms, the Premier League retained its dominant position with its €5.134bn total consisting of €2.669bn in broadcast income and €1.782bn in sponsorship/commercial revenue. Matchday revenue of €683m accounted for 13% of this amount, with Premier League stadia said to have attracted average attendances of 39,591, or 98% capacity, until the COVID-19 enforced season shutdown.

The Bundesliga moved above LaLiga into second position with €3.208bn of total revenue – €1.489bn from broadcast, €889m from sponsorship/commercial and €364m from matchdays. The Bundesliga pulled in the highest average attendance amongst the big five of 40,444 for 91% capacity.

LaLiga recorded total revenue of €3.117bn, including €1.711bn from broadcast, €997m from sponsorship/commercial and €409m from matchday (28,862 average gate for 75% capacity). Deloitte said the Bundesliga reported the smallest fall (four per cent or €137m) in total revenue because its season was completed pre-financial year-end and there were only minimal rebates payable to broadcasters. LaLiga’s revenues dropped by 8%, but it is expected to reclaim second spot in 2020-21.

Serie A reported an 18% fall in revenue to €2.052bn, with matchdays accounting for €234m or 11% of this. Serie A had the lowest stadium occupancy of 66%, with average attendance at 26,352. Ligue 1 was the only big-five league to cancel its 2019-20 season in response to COVID-19.

Ligue 1 set total revenue of €1.598bn for a 16% fall year-on-year. Matchday revenue of €170m represented 11% of this figure, with Ligue 1 matches pulling in average attendances of 22,546 for 73% stadia occupancy.

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.

“It should be noted that while it is now 16 months since the pandemic struck in Europe, the analysis in this report focuses on the 2019-20 financial year and hence only accounts for, in most cases, three months of COVID-19 impact.

“The suspension of leagues led to the misalignment of season completion and typical financial reporting periods across England, Spain and Italy. This will lead to some elements of revenue and costs related to the 2019-20 season being recognised in the financial year ending 2021, and hence next year’s edition of Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance.”

In January, Deloitte forecast that the 20 highest revenue-generating football clubs will have missed out on over €2bn in revenue by the end of the 2020-21 season amid the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

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