European professional clubs of the highest category will have a loss of income in the 2019-21 period of €7.2 billion, according to a UEFA report that reflects that the resumption of competitions after the pandemic allowed save around €2 billion in TV rebates.

The twelfth edition of this year’s “Panorama of UEFA European club football” report notes that despite a 210 million drop in match fans, the general interest in European club football is greater than ever, with record numbers of TV viewership, new investors and investments and a rebound in club web traffic.

The more than one hundred pages of the document published this Friday examine the effects at all levels of the health crisis and highlight the effectiveness of Financial Fair Play, affirming that “if the pandemic had occurred in 2012, the impact on club football would have been catastrophic”.

It also underlines “the importance of unity, solidarity and respect throughout the pyramidal structure of football” and states that UEFA’s solidarity benefits to clubs amount to € 558 million per year, which will increase thereafter. “which far exceeds what was predicted by the split competitions.”

Impact of pandemic on club finances

After more than 20 years of growth at an average of more than 8% per year, the forecast is that the first division clubs will lose between € 7.2 billion and € 8.1 billion in revenue in the financial years 2019/20 and 2020/21 and the minor leagues 1,500 € million.

This figure includes a maximum of € 4 billion in losses from ticket sales, € 2.7 billion in commercial and sponsorship revenue and € 1.4 billion from broadcasts.

The lost revenue from ticket sales amounts to € 85 million per week.

Professional clubs have lost 210 million spectators in stadiums since the start of the pandemic (140 first-tier and 70 in minor leagues).

The savings in salary and operating costs have only partially offset the loss of income. The impact of covid-19 on operating profits is expected to reach at least € 5,300 in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Since the beginning of 2020, 15 first division clubs and 37 second division clubs from 24 countries have suffered a serious financial event (withdrawal or exclusion from the league) or insolvency proceedings. The total of 42 clubs in calendar year 2020 surpasses the previous record of 34 cases at the peak of club overspending in 2011.

Impact of pandemic on signings

Spending on transfers in the summer of 2020 was reduced by 39% compared to the record of the summer of 2019 and by 30% compared to the average of the three previous summers.

Total spending on transfers exceeded € 4 billion. In 43% of operations worldwide at least one English club was involved.

The transfer window in January showed no signs of recovery. Transfer spending by European clubs was reduced by 56% compared to January of the previous year and was 61% below the record of January 2018.

These lower transfer levels will also affect final profits for 2020 and 2021 (an estimated € 2 billion reduction in profits from transfers).

Pandemic impact in other aspects

More than 15 million amateur players have been affected by training and game interruptions.

National federations have adapted their calendar and format to the pandemic, which has allowed the conclusion of 39 men’s cup competitions in 2020 and will allow the conclusion of 51 in 2021.

Some leagues had the highest viewership figures in their history, showing that fan interest in football remains very high, even when played without spectators.

The number of away victories has increased in the top 30 divisions since the start of the pandemic. Local wins have decreased by 3% and since the resumption of the national leagues in 2020 the percentage of draws has increased from 23% to 24%.

Substitutions per team per game have increased from an average of 2.8 between 2017 and 2020 to an average of 3.7 since summer 2020, following the introduction of the five-substitution rule in most of the first divisions nationals.

In 2020 Spain and Denmark announced plans to prevent betting companies from sponsoring clubs, bringing the number of countries with these restrictions to 16.

In 2020 only five countries reported a complete absence of restrictions on club ownership. Most of the leagues applied restrictions on the ownership of various clubs, rules on the legal form of these or controls and tests on potential new owners.

Despite the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns around the world, European football clubs remained as attractive to investors as ever. Between January 2020 and April 2021 there were some 52 acquisitions of majority stakes.

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