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UEFA has produced a club licensing benchmarking report on European club football – the broadest of its kind ever undertaken – covering financial results from more than 600 top-division clubs from UEFA's 53 member national associations.
The European Club Footballing Landscape is an 80-page report published in four languages – English, French, German and Russian – and the analyses contained within have formed an important basis for recent discussions on financial fair play, as well as contributing to increased transparency in club football – one of UEFA's key club licensing objectives. The report also deals with non-financial areas such as competition structures and attendance trends and, for the first time, features a pan-European analysis of stadium ownership and licensing results.
The report makes clear that licensing across Europe is fully implemented and being enforced: it presents the names of 21 clubs, including six in the most recent year, who have been refused access to the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup and the latter's successor competition, the UEFA Europa League, because no licence has been granted to the club in question.
In addition, the report shows that long-term investment in football remains sporadic and the vast majority of revenue is flowing in and out of clubs. While some 65% of top-division teams play in stadiums owned by their municipal authorities, employee costs – mainly players – rose annually by more than 18% to more than €7bn, considerably outpacing the 10.6% increase in reported revenues. Differences in spending power are also evident. The ten highest-spending clubs in Europe reported employee and net transfer costs of €1,820m – almost double that of the next ten clubs.
The transfer system continues to contribute to financial redistribution from larger to smaller clubs, with 138 European clubs reporting a significant positive financial effect – equivalent to more than 10% of income – from transfers. In particular, sides from countries with strong youth training and development cultures, such as France, the Netherlands and Croatia, saw their finances improved.
All in all, it is clear that while many clubs are continuing to operate successfully, there are many operating less-sustainable strategies – the publication reports that 54% of Europe's top-division teams reported operating losses (before transfers) in the 2008 financial year. Of those reporting losses, the 20 largest loss-making clubs reported net cumulative operating losses of €344m. Once transfers, financing and other non-operating items were taken into account, the 20 worst losses reached €735m.
Indeed, while some clubs in every UEFA member association were able to break even, the analyses identify other signs of financial overstretching and clubs living beyond their current means. For example, of the €1,650m in transfer debts reported in club financial statements, €550m was long-term debt (of more than 12 months) – in other words, clubs fielding players now but not paying transfer fees until future seasons.
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