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UEFA report details European football’s journey to profitability

Club Licensing

UEFA has released its tenth club licensing benchmarking report on European club football – authoritative overview of 700 top-division clubs highlights profits and record revenues and shows ten-year trends

UEFA's club licensing benchmarking report provides important insights
UEFA's club licensing benchmarking report provides important insights ©UEFA.com

UEFA has released the tenth edition of its annual club licensing benchmarking report on European club football, named ‘The European Club Footballing Landscape”. As well as focusing on the 2017 financial year, the tenth edition also analyses the major trends of the past ten years.

The resulting report provides the most comprehensive and transparent overview of the state of the European football finance ever published. Both the 2017 data and the detailed ten-year trends paint a positive picture. For the first time, the 700 top-division clubs together generated a ‘bottom-line’ profit figure in the 2017 financial year. These bottom-line profits of €615million – profits after transfer, non-operating, financing, tax and divestment – reflect six consecutive years of improvement since the introduction of financial fair play.

Looking back over the last ten years, the report presents a clear narrative of two distinct parts, the post-recession and pre-regulation years 2008-2011, and the period since 2012 when UEFA financial regulations and, subsequently, a number of domestic financial regulations were introduced. Spiralling club costs, mainly wages, sent club losses crashing from €600 million in 2008 to €1,700 million in 2011. However, losses have been cut every year since the introduction of financial fair play, and finally turned into net profits in 2017.

In the foreword to the report, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: “This report showcases the many successes of European football. It shows that the positive revenue, investment and profitability trends identified in last year’s report are continuing. The underlying health of European club football is highlighted, with the 700 top-division clubs together generating the first bottom-line profit in history. Is it therefore any wonder that interest in European football is radiating outwards across the globe as demonstrated by the many millions of social media activations and by the numerous club acquisitions from foreign investors.”

The report highlights a cultural change in European football finance over the past decade, with football regulation, led by UEFA and supported by national associations; a stable media landscape; supporter loyalty; and a club-wide focus on managing costs allowing European football to end these ten years far stronger than when it started.

As such, the report details that 2017 saw the highest revenue increase in history, with more than €1.6 billion revenue added. In addition, a record number of 28 leagues reported profits in 2017 compared to just nine leagues in 2011, prior to the introduction of financial fair play.

The report also shows that over the past ten years, the top 12 ‘global’ clubs’ share of European club sponsor and commercial revenues has almost doubled from 22% to 39% as they added €1.6 billion in commercial and sponsorship revenues. In comparison, the other 700 European top-division clubs, from large, medium and small revenue leagues, were able to add less than €1 billion. While the report notes the polarisation at the very top paused in 2017, with the 11th to 20th clubs enjoying more revenue growth than the top 10, it is an issue that UEFA continues to monitor closely.

Aleksander Čeferin said: “Recent issues of this report have brought the challenges of polarisation and competitive balance into focus, illustrating how financial gaps are augmented by globalisation and technological change and it is therefore more essential than ever that all stakeholders work together to keep football strong up and down the pyramid. Football will never be equal, it doesn’t live in a bubble, but I truly believe it is UEFA’s role as guardians of the European game to ensure that football in every one of the 55 member associations can exploit its’ full potential and we will work to support this.”

Other key findings in the report include:

• Top-division club revenues have increased by 77% from €11.4 billion in 2008 to €20.1 billion in 2017.

• For the fourth year out of the last five years, European club revenues grew at a faster rate than club wages, with revenue at 8.9% and wages growing at 6.7%.

• Because of this better wage control, clubs were able to report the highest operating profits in history of €1.4 billion in 2017. Europe’s clubs have now generated more than €4 billion in operating profits in the last five years, fuelling the recent increased transfer spending.

• Net debt continues to fall, from 65% of revenue before the introduction of financial fair play in 2011 to 40% in 2015, and down to 34% in 2017.

• The first year of the current Premier League TV rights cycle further separated English clubs from their rivals, with reported revenue increasing by 47% in domestic currency and 28% in euro currency terms. Indeed, only FC Barcelona, Juventus FC and Real Madrid CF received more TV money than the 20th Premier League club.

• Transfer spending has increased by 95% in just three years, with prices almost doubling in all three price ranges (top, middle and lower-value deals).

• Gambling and betting firms are now the most common source of shirt sponsorship in ten European leagues.

• More people are watching European football than ever before. 2017/18 recorded the highest total European attendance level on record, with attendances of 105 million marginally outperforming the level reached in 2011/12. A record 15 clubs had aggregate league match attendances of over 1 million.

• UEFA prize money has become more important as a source of revenue, especially in less wealthy leagues: UEFA revenue to clubs has risen by 228% in the last ten years, compared with an overall growth in revenue of 77% and a growth in broadcast revenue of 113%.

• Over the past decade, 46 foreign investors of 22 different nationalities have become ultimate controlling parties of European top-division clubs.

Download the full report here
Download the report in Mandarin