European soccer revenue grew 10% in the 2020-21 season despite a near-total lack of fans in stadiums, according to a report published on Thursday.
The season was like no other with the COVID-19 pandemic cutting off virtually all matchday revenue, but Deloitte’s Annual Football Finance Review showed the industry had held its own across the continent with total revenue of €27.6bn. of euros.
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The so-called big five leagues in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France enjoyed a combined 3% rise in revenue with Italy’s Serie A up 23% to €2.5bn and England’s Premier League up 8%. up to 5.5 billion euros.
Revenue from deferred transmission from the previous season – 48% in the case of Serie A – and the success of the postponed Euro 2020 tournament played across the continent in 2021, were behind the increase in European revenue, according to the report.
“Clubs across Europe played a significant proportion of matches behind closed doors or at reduced capacity during the 2020/21 season, resulting in an almost total loss of matchday revenue,” said Tim Bridge, Senior Partner at Sports Business. Deloitte Group.
“It is testament to the resilience of the industry, the value driven by broadcast deals and the success of the European Championship that the European football market has achieved tenacious growth, in terms of revenue, over the last year.”
However, behind the impressive numbers, the picture was not rosy everywhere.
Germany’s Bundesliga reported combined revenue down 6% to €3bn, while Spain’s LaLiga also shrank 6%.
Of the five major leagues, only the Premier League saw an increase in clubs’ cumulative operating profit, from £49m to £479m.
Although combined net debt in England’s top flight rose by just 4% to £4.1bn in 2020-21, debts in the second division championship rose 32%, with wage costs exceeding revenue for the fourth consecutive year.
“It is important not to overlook the deficit position of many clubs,” said Bridge.
“The advances made to drive financial sustainability through new UEFA regulations and to professionalise women’s football will challenge clubs to break with tradition, potentially increasing profitability in a notoriously losing industry and creating a more inclusive environment for everyone. It’s an exciting period, but one to be well prepared for.”
While only four Premier League clubs reported pre-tax profit in 2020-21, it remains well-placed to maintain its position as Europe’s most powerful league, with Deloitte predicting revenue to top £6bn this season.
“As the Premier League enters its fourth decade, it is further ahead of the competition than ever, having emerged from the pandemic without as significant an increase in net debt as many might have hoped,” Bridge said.
“The stark reality, however, is that the league last broke even before taxes in the 2017/18 season, highlighting the crucial need for strong governance and financial planning in the coming years.”