The world’s 20 richest football clubs are on course to miss out on €2bn in revenue by the end of this season because of the pandemic, underlining a bleak outlook against which some teams are accelerating plans for a breakaway “super league”.
Spain’s Barcelona was the highest-earning club even though its revenues fell 15 per cent to €715m in the 2019/20 season, according to Deloitte’s annual “money league” report, putting it narrowly ahead of its La Liga rival Real Madrid.
But the consultancy warned that the clubs would miss on €2bn over the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons because of lost matchday and broadcast revenue.
Driven by victory in the Uefa Champions League, Europe’s top club tournament, Germany’s Bayern Munich had revenues of €634.1m, allowing it to leapfrog England’s Manchester United’s €580m and finish in third place.
The Bundesliga’s quicker resumption of play in the 2019/20 season, which was suspended as a result of the pandemic, also played a part in Bayern’s ascent from fourth to third place. The swifter return of the Bundesliga enabled German clubs to recognise revenue, in particular domestic broadcast deals, sooner than those in rival leagues.
Despite winning the Premier League and, unlike Manchester United, participating in the Champions League that season, Liverpool could not finish higher than its English rival in the money league.
The €8.2bn in revenue generated by the top 20 clubs last season represented a 12 per cent decline against the one before. Deloitte warned that matchday revenue is likely to remain negligible because of repeated delays to the return of fans to stadiums.
Losses are increasing the stakes as Manchester United and Real Madrid are working on plans to restructure elite competition in European football, in a move that would radically alter the finances of the sport.
Founding clubs could be offered €350m each to join the so-called super league, which would guarantee spots for 15 members and a further five open to clubs able to qualify.
Fifa, world football’s governing body, took the proposals so seriously that it has warned that it will not recognise such a league. It also threatened to ban players who participate from taking part in the World Cup, the top level of international football.
Dan Jones, a partner at Deloitte, warned of the “disruption and the risk that comes with the super league” and said that he was “fundamentally quite positive . . . that top level sport will rebound well as we get some more normality”.
“It feels like people are trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” he added.