PARIS: The COVID-19 pandemic has left Europe's clubs with a massive seven billion euro-crater in their bank accounts, a UEFA report concluded on Thursday. The virus-disrupted past two seasons, with many games played to empty terraces, ended an uninterrupted rise in revenue over the previous 20 years.
With gate receipts decimated, sponsorship down and television rights receipts hit, clubs suffered a four billion euros hit in 2019-2020, and three billion in 2020-2021. Lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the virus that has killed nearly 2 million in Europe and 5.69 million worldwide cut off the clubs' financial lifeblood - the fans.
Ticket sales dived by 4.4 billion euros, while the report forecast a 1.7 billion drop in sponsorship, and 0.9 billion reduction in television rights. These figures correspond with the forecast losses contained in UEFA's report in May 2021 which put at 7.2bn euros the loss for Europe's 711 top flight sides.
The latest UEFA study includes the consolidated results of these same 711 clubs for the year 2020, as well as the anticipated financial statements of 95 major teams for the year 2021, particularly marked by games played behind closed doors.
These long months of empty stadiums have caused a drastic decrease in ticketing revenues, plummeting by 88 percent in 2021 compared to 2019.
Sluggish transfer market
UEFA also analysed the impact of COVID on the transfer market. "Revenues due to transfers decreased by 40 per cent during the summer 2020, January 2021 and summer 2021 transfer windows" compared to their original level, the European body pointed out.
European clubs spent 3.8 billion euros in the summer of 2021, compared to 6.5 billion in the summer transfer window of 2019. But UEFA also stressed signs of recovery have been observed in recent months as "fans seem to have more appetite than ever to return to the stadium".
It also noted a rebound in the January transfer window which closed on Monday with an estimated 950 million euros spent last month in Europe, according to UEFA. A total down only 10 percent compared to the average winter transfer window between 2017 and 2019.
The activity of French Ligue 1 clubs on the market halved between the summer of 2019 and the summer of 2021, with a negative balance -- 400 million euros spent against 372 million received.
Victims of the withdrawal of their broadcaster Mediapro, the starting point for a fall in their television revenues, Ligue 1 clubs have been among the hardest hit in Europe, with overall revenues down 29 percent since March 2020, compared with around 20 percent for England, Germany and Spain, and 26 percent for Italy.
Between 2019 and 2020, Paris Saint-Germain saw its income drop by 15 percent, to 560 million euros. The Qatar-bankrolled French giants are among the Top 5 highest earners in Europe, behind Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.