The Premier League was the only one of the “big five” European leagues to see clubs improve total operating profits over the Covid-hit 2020/21 season, as Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance also showed how the game became increasingly polarised across the continent.
While the campaign actually saw revenues in the European market grow by 10 per cent to €27.6 billion despite an almost total loss of matchday revenues - up from €25.2bn from the disrupted 2019/20 season - this was mostly down to deferred broadcast revenues and the success of the postponed Euro 2020 tournament.
The company’s 31st review of the market meanwhile predicted that Premier League revenues would reach £5.5bn for the 2021/22 season.
As it is, England’s elite competition saw 8 per cent growth from £4.5bn to £4.9bn, with operating profits rising from £49m to £479m.
That ensured the “big five” leagues - England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France - saw a 3% increase from 2019/20 to €15.1bn, although the Premier League’s huge share of that indicates where the power lies across continental football. That, predictably, was largely attributable to broadcast revenue.
It means Premier League clubs’ wage costs actually increased 5 per cent to £3.5bn in 2020/21.
Serie A otherwise experienced the greatest percentage growth in aggregate revenues, again due to broadcast deferrals up 23 per cent to €2.5bn. La Liga saw a 6 per cent contraction to €2.9bn and the Bundesliga a 6 per cent fall to €3bn. Ligue 1 - the only one of the big five to curtail its 2019/20 season - consequently saw revenues grow by just 1 per cent to €1.6bn.
When excluding the Premier League, the other four of that quintet saw total operating losses increase from €461m to €901m.
That “big five” overall represent a 57 per cent share of the continent’s football market.
Lower down in England, the report highlights how Championship clubs’ net debt grew by 32 per cent to £1.8bn at the end of the 2020/21 season, with wage costs exceeding revenue for the fourth consecutive campaign. The wages-revenue ratio reached a record high of 125 per cent.
There was nevertheless a warning for the Premier League, from Tim Bridge, lead partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.
“As the Premier League enters its fourth decade, it’s further ahead of the competition than ever before, having emerged from the pandemic without as significant an increase in net debt as many might have expected. The stark reality, however, is that the league last broke even at a pre-tax level in the 2017/18 season, highlighting the crucial need for strong governance and financial planning in the years ahead.”
The report meanwhile noted how the resilience of the industry has been reflected by a “boom in investment”, with 15 investments made across the “big five” in 2021. That was three more than 2019 and 2020 combined. The majority, 87 percent, were by high-net-worth individuals and private equity firms, with more than two thirds coming from the US.
“Multi-club ownership (MCO) has grown in popularity,” the report highlights, “with over 70 MCOs now thought to be in existence, more than double the amount only five years ago (28). Nine of the 20 Premier League clubs operate within a MCO model.”