UEFA has released the fourteenth edition of The European Club Footballing Landscape report, its annual club licensing benchmarking report on European club football.
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The report again provides the most authoritative, detailed, and comprehensive review of the European football finance landscape, competition landscape and players landscape, and this year’s edition focuses closely on how European top-division clubs have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA President:
"This report also makes it clear how extraordinary European football's resilience has been during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. After missing out on a staggering €7bn during this challenging period, we are happy to see that the top division clubs' revenues are higher than they were on pre-pandemic levels. That proves that football is not only standing tall; it is bouncing back."
The story of the 2023 Benchmarking report is that of a sport emerging from the pandemic and returning to normality. Revenue across more than 140 early reporting clubs is up by an average of 4.6% despite the lingering effects of lockdown impacting the start of the financial period under review. Sponsors, investors and fans are showing unprecedented interest, with record sponsor and commercial revenue 13% higher than it was pre-pandemic, record levels of club takeover activity detailed in the report, and record gate revenues reported by the clubs in countries with a full return to play throughout the season, where full return to play protocols were in place during the season.
However, the report highlights some concerning signs on the cost side. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, operating costs have increased 11% and finance costs have increased 18%, as clubs are impacted by wider economic trends. More than anything though, it is the continued upwards trend in wages, that threatens clubs' return to pre-pandemic profitability.
These figures prompted the UEFA President to state: "Despite the unprecedented turmoil of recent years, wages have continued to grow, rising on average by 16 per cent compared to pre-pandemic standards. Top-division players' salaries, for example, have more than doubled during the past decade. And while this is not a negative trend per se, it is clear that many are compromising their economic sustainability in their reckless pursuit of success."
One check to this unsustainable cost growth is the new squad cost ratio new measure on which clubs will be assessed under the updated UEFA Financial Sustainability regulations. As Andrea Traverso, UEFA’s Director of Financial Sustainability & Research, states in his introduction to the report: "The imminent implementation of new financial sustainability regulations is timely and clearly required. These should force clubs to better plan their squad strategy in the future as well as their debt structure, failing which, clubs risk to incur strict penalties. The medicine is strong, but the current financial context demands a well-balanced but firm intervention from all stakeholders."
This year’s edition of the report features the most in-depth data yet. One significant edition is to have a have an extensive country KPI section (values and ranks) for every individual country.
The report will also be the last European Club Footballing Landscape report in its current guise after 14 years. As from the end of the 2022/23 season, the UEFA Intelligence Centre will publish two reports: one focusing more on competitions, sporting and transfer data published after each summer transfer window, and one presenting the latest financial data and trends published at end of the year.
It is fitting that it is, therefore, a testament to European football’s resilience. Through deep calendar cooperation among competition owners and continued financial support by owners and the millions of mini-benefactor fans, the level of insolvency procedures across the 1500+ top two tiers of European football remains less than half the level of a decade ago, despite the unprecedented revenue crunch that the pandemic delivered. As the UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin states: "As football navigates through its darkest times, we must remember the lessons we learned during this period. And the one that I keep underlining is the unity of the European football family. We can overcome any threat or challenge by working together and remaining faithful to our beautiful sport."